Staff and visitors at the cutting edge centre include, from top, Sarah Chaney, Rachel Giles, Stephanie Kiernan, Caroline Lynch, Daniel Simkin and Latoya Trench

Centre of excellence somewhere they can come and  study, but also have fun.’ The centre has an interactive  feel. Rather than sitting behind  desks, customer service information  Square – also has a seminar room,  assistants carry tablets so that they  members’ lounge, group and quiet  can access information easily from  anywhere in the centre. Books can  study areas, exhibition spaces,  be checked out or renewed using  a bookshop and a café.  self-service machines (they can  With its bright, modern decor  also be renewed online), and the  and relaxing atmosphere, the  group study room has an interactive  centre was designed as a space  smartboard to help meetings run  where nurses could meet, study,  more smoothly.  share ideas and socialise. The  Two exhibitions are currently  public can also visit to use the café  and look at the exhibitions to learn  running at the centre, one on the  RCN’s links with the royal family  more about nursing. (see panel opposite). The second  ‘The original college building  exhibition, open until March 2015,  was a real club for nurses. That is  forms part of the RCN’s This Is  what we wanted to recreate with  Nursing campaign, launched in  the new space,’ says archives and  September 2012 to help the public  information services manager  understand the profession. Four  Teresa Doherty. ‘We wanted to  advertisements from the campaign  make it appealing to members, 

The RCN has unveiled a new expanded space for study and discussion. Clare Lomas takes a tour


The RCN Library and Heritage Centre, which opened in the summer following a £2 million redevelopment project, is far more than just a lending library. As well as a comprehensive  collection of nursing literature,  the centre – at the RCN’s central  London head offi ce in Cavendish  In August, the refurbished RCN Library and  Heritage Centre opened at the college’s London  headquarters. As well as a comprehensive  collection of nursing literature, it offers a  relaxing ‘club’ environment where nurses can  meet, study and socialise. Exhibitions, drawing  on the college’s unrivalled archive of nursing  materials, showcase nursing’s achievements  and stimulate discussion.

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are rotated on screens near the café  area, and timelines and illustrations  from signifi cant periods in nursing  history cover the walls.  By showcasing the signifi cant  innovations and developments in  nursing and nurse education, the  exhibition aims to remind nurses  and the public how much the  profession has achieved.  Items on display include  a variety of historic nursing  equipment and memorabilia, from  old-style sphygmomanometers,  pulse timers and syringes to  nursing uniforms, belts and badges.  Elizabeth Hanbury’s 1828 book,  The Good Nurse, sits alongside  a 2009 book, Compassion and  Caring in Nursing, by Claire  Chambers and Elaine Ryder.  ‘We have the largest collection  of nursing-specifi c materials in  Europe. Looking at these can  help members understand the  role nursing history has played in  helping to shape the profession  today,’ says Ms Doherty. At a time when nurses are  accused of lacking compassion  

CELEBRATION OF A ROYAL RELATIONSHIP To celebrate the connection between When the College of Nursing was the royal family and the RCN, a nursing granted its ‘Royal’ status in 1939 by history exhibition opened last month at King George VI, the longstanding the RCN Library and Heritage Centre relationship between royalty and at the college headquarters. nursing was cemented. Items on display include the current One member of the royal family to royal charter (the original royal charter champion nursing was Queen Mary, wife of George V and was granted to the the Queen’s paternal college in 1928) and a grandmother, who photograph of Queen purchased a plot of Mary at the opening land in London to ceremony of the college. There is also a provide a site for a new college of photograph of a young nursing. Queen Mary Princess Elizabeth opened the building taking tea with nursing in 1926 and became students in 1945, and a Princess Elizabeth meets nursing students the college’s patron. letter from the princess to the Student Nurses Association Number 20 Cavendish Square remains thanking its members for a moonstone the RCN’s headquarters to this day. brooch they presented to her on her The special relationship between 21st birthday in 1947. royalty and the RCN continued to ‘The exhibition reminds us of our flourish over the following decades, professional background, and the fact with the present Queen showing a keen that we are a royal college,’ says archives interest in nurse education. In 1944, as Princess Elizabeth, she became president and information services manager Teresa Doherty. of the Student Nurses Association.

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Audience engagement manager Sarah Chaney, top left, views some of the artefacts showcased at the centre, including the 1828 book, The Good Nurse, and a variety of nursing equipment and memorabilia, including belts and badges

 following high-profile scandals  about poor care, she hopes the  exhibition will encourage a more  balanced assessment. ‘Compassion  and nursing have always gone  hand in hand,’ says Ms Doherty.  ‘We may be faced with challenges  like Mid Staffs today, but sadly,  these things are not new.  ‘The college has always been  here to help members improve  their practice and remember the  principles of nursing practice.  If we use our collections more  appropriately, we can engage  people who are not currently  studying but who just want to  know a bit more.’ Audience engagement manager  Sarah Chaney says that bringing  people together to share ideas  and learn from each other will be a  central function of the centre, and  will help to open up debate around  nursing issues.  ‘Starting from a historical  perspective makes it easier to  initiate discussion,’ she says. 

‘When you start from the  present, you can get bogged  down with individual failings   and concerns, but if you take   a step back 100 years you can  look at things more broadly   then make the connections   to current practice. ‘The many skills involved in  nursing, and the research being  carried out, are not always  appreciated,’ she adds. ‘These are  things that need to be showcased.  Having this space is a great step  towards introducing them to a  wider audience.’ 


A project scheduled for 2014  will emphasise the relationship  between nursing research and  practice. It will turn a spotlight  on the work of senior RCN figures  with doctorates, including RCN  general secretary Peter Carter,  whose 1996 thesis looked at the  reasons why nursing staff and   care workers abuse patients. 

The library has a significant  collection of nurses’ theses. ‘When  you see the amount of effort that  goes into producing a thesis, you  cannot say that nurses do not  care,’ says Ms Doherty.  ‘Each one represents an  individual who has spent four  years dedicated to one in-depth  aspect of nursing. It is a physical  embodiment of a specialised  commitment, and a huge  contribution to patient care.’  Plans for next year also include  an exhibition on RCN members  who have been involved in  campaigning, followed by an  exhibition to commemorate the  start of the first world war and  nurses’ involvement in the conflict.  A project to digitise the state  registers from 1922 onwards  will also start in the spring, and  the centre hopes to receive  sponsorship for a series of  exhibitions and events  NS Further information

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Centre of excellence.

In August, the refurbished RCN Library and Heritage Centre opened at the college's London headquarters. As well as a comprehensive collection of nursi...
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