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Royal College of Nursing

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Royal College of Nursing

Royal College of Nursing
Full name Royal College of Nursing
Founded 1916
Members 400,000+ (2011)
Affiliation International Council of Nurses
Key people Andrea Spyropoulos, President
Peter Carter, General Secretary
Office location London, United Kingdom
Country United Kingdom

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is a union membership organisation with over 395,000 members in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1916, receiving its Royal Charter in 1928, Queen Elizabeth II is the patron. Most members are registered nurses but student nurses and healthcare assistants are also admitted.

The RCN describes its mission as representing nurses and nursing, promoting excellence in practice and shaping health policies. It has a network of stewards, safety representatives and union learning representatives as well as advice services for members. Services include a main library in London and regional libraries around the country. The RCN Institute also provides courses for nurses.

RCN Foundation

On 1 April 2010 the RCN announced the launch of the RCN Foundation – an independent charity to support nursing and improve the health and wellbeing of the public. The new foundation will undertake a number of activities including giving grants for improving nursing practice through activities that, for example, support the development of clinical practice and improve the quality and standard of patient care and experience.


RCN HQ, Cavendish Square London

The headquarters are at 20 Cavendish Square, London, a grade II listed building.[1] which was built as a substantial townhouse in 1729 and became the residence of British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith. The building was refronted and incorporated by architect Edwin Cooper in 1930 into his re-development of the corner site with Henrietta Place. The RCN has offices throughout the UK. In England regional offices are located in; Birmingham, Bolton, Bury St Edmunds, Croydon, Exeter, Newbury, Nottingham, Leeds, and Sunderland. The Northern Ireland office is in Belfast. The Scottish offices are located in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow; and the Welsh offices are located in Cardiff and Conwy.

RCN libraries

The RCN has four libraries, one in each country of the United Kingdom. They are located in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London. The RCN's archives are in Edinburgh. The London library, which is now known as the UK Library, was founded in 1921, and its contents include 60,000 volumes, 500 videos and 400 current periodicals on nursing and related subjects. Special collections include the Historical Collection and the RCN Steinberg Collection of Nursing Research, the latter of which comprises over 1,000 nursing theses and dissertations. Set up in 1974, the RCN Steinberg Collection of Nursing Research contains a selection of influential nursing theses and dissertations from the early 1950s to the present day.

RCN Publishing Company

The RCN Publishing Company produces RCN Bulletin, a fortnightly member publication, and Nursing Standard, which is available through subscription and on news stands. It also publishes a range of journals for specialist nurses: Cancer Nursing Practice, Emergency Nurse, Learning Disability Practice, Mental Health Practice, Nursing Children and Young People, Nursing Management, Nursing Older People, Nurse Researcher, and Primary Health Care.

RCN Institute

The RCN Institute is part of the Royal College of Nursing and is responsible for providing nurses with an opportunity to participate in higher and continuing education, research and practice development. The RCN Institute is expected to provide education across the United Kingdom including a portfolio of experiential clinical, primary care and political leadership development workshops and programmes across the UK.


The RCN is governed by its Council. Council members are guardians/trustees of the organisation's mission and values on behalf of the members. They are also charity trustees and carry legal duties and responsibilities laid down by charity law. The Council is responsible for the overall governance of the RCN, and has ultimate responsibility for the sustainability and the finances of the organisation.

The Council is made up of 29 Council members: two elected by each of the 12 geographical sections (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and 9 English), two elected by student members (RCN Students), the RCN President and Deputy President, elected by all members, and the Chair of RCN Congress (non-voting), who is elected by Congress voting entities. The RCN's General Secretary is appointed by Council. Council members are not paid to serve on Council but voluntarily give up their time to serve the RCN and its members, in their governance role. The current Council Chair is Kathleen McCourt, CBE.

The current Council members are:

  • President: Andrea Spyropoulos
  • Deputy President: Cecilia Anim
  • Chair of RCN Congress (non-voting): Rod Thomson


In 1916 the College of Nursing Ltd was founded with 34 members as a professional organisation for trained nurses.[2] A Royal Charter was granted in 1928 and the organisation became the College of Nursing.[3] In 1939 the organisation name was changed to the Royal College of Nursing. Since 1977 the RCN has also been registered as a trade union.[4]


RCN President, Andrea Spyropoulos, at the 2010 AGM


The RCN awards fellowships bestowed for exceptional contributions to nursing. Honorary Fellowships can be granted by RCN Council to those who are unable to become an RCN member, either because they are from overseas or because they work outside the nursing profession. Fellows and Honorary Fellows are entitled to the postnomial FRCN.[5]


  1. ^ "20 Cavendish Square". Images of England. Retrieved 2006-06-30. 
  2. ^ "About us: our history". RCN. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "About us: our constitutional documents". RCN. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  4. ^ "About us: our structure". RCN. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  5. ^ RCN Award of Merit and RCN Fellowship

Further reading

  • Bowman, Gerald (1967). The Lamp and the Book: The Story of the RCN 1916-1966. London: Queen Anne Press. 

External links

  • Official website
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