The RCN’s International Nursing Research Conference is the UK’s largest conference focusing on Nursing Research and research undertaken by nurses. This year the Conference is being hosted by Edinburgh and has again attracted delegates from around the world. I first attended this conference in Sheffield in 2000 and have attended most of the conferences in the intervening years. I have also been involved in planning the Conference in various roles, including being a member of the RCN Research Society’s Steering Committee, being a member of the Conference Scientific Committee and Chairing the Local Organising Committee when the event was hosted by Cambridge in 2004. Although involved in a Fringe Event with ‘Journal of Clinical Nursing’ editorial colleagues, this year I am mostly attending mostly as a pure delegate so I will have time to share my thoughts on the Conference through this blog.

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The Conference launched with the usual opening welcomes to the host city. This might seem like a simple task but after all the planning that went into the Cambridge Conference, it was entertaining that Professor Kate Gerrish, the then RCN Research Society Chair, welcomed delegates to her own home town of Sheffield. No-one was more confused than the Mayor of Cambridge who was waiting to offer her own welcome. This year there was no such mistake and delegates were left in no doubt that they are in Scotland’s capital city.

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Professor Pam Smith
In 1992 I bought a book entitled ‘The Emotional Labour of Nursing’ by Pam Smith, and it still sits on a shelf in my study at home. At the time the book made a lot of sense to me but we now live in a different world so it was interesting to hear Professor Pam Smith deliver the Conference’s first plenary lecture on ‘navigating the emotions of care’. It would seem that emotional labour is still a key ingredient of nursing and can bring with it rewards for those engaged in delivering compassionate nursing care. However, what I still struggle with is the number of nurses who demonstrate no compassion or cause harm, both in the long history of nursing and in more recent years. Are these nurses who have rationalised a way of not being influenced in their actions by the demands of emotional labour or the challenge of nursing with compassion? These individuals are clearly small in number but it is they who get the press rather than the many who nurse with compassion, receive the rewards of emotional labour and make a difference to people’s lives.

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Do you know how many professors of nursing and midwifery there are in the UK? This is an important question because this professoriate should be the body that leads and champions nursing and nursing research. If nursing research is to continue growing and making a difference then so should the size of the profession’s professoriate. In a packed room, Dave O’Carroll reported, for the fifth time since 2003, on the number of professors in nursing and midwifery. You will be able to read more about this in the ‘Journal of Research in Nursing’ but the key message was that the numbers of nursing and midwifery professors has increased by only a small number since the last analysis but is still nowhere near where it should be, especially if you make a comparison with medicine where 0.5% of doctors are professors compared to 0.04% of the nursing profession. The answer to my opening question is that at the time of the analysis (September 2015) there were 261 professors in nursing and midwifery in the UK. It will be interesting to see what happens when Dave analyses this data for a sixth time.

One of the most important reasons to attend any conference are the opportunities provided to network around the scientific programme. On Day 1 I was able to catch-up with many old friends and colleagues but I was also fortunate enough to meet many new people who share my passion for research. I look forward to Day 2.

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