RCN International Nursing Research Conference – Day 2

Reading Professor Gary Rolfe’s work can sometimes be a little challenging but it was fascinating to hear so much sense in the keynote lecture that started Day 2 of the Conference. Just to give you a feel for Gary’s argument, we are all brick makers and we have made so many bricks that we have been forced to make more and more stores in which to keep our many bricks. It could further be argued that we are making so many bricks that we risk burying practice in bricks. Even worse, we are not always making bricks for the right reasons or with a clear direction for how our bricks might be used. For those who stumbled into the hall for the start of Day 2 this will make perfect sense but, for those absent, ‘bricks’ are ‘research’ and brick ‘stores’ are ‘journals’.

Professor Gary Rolfe (thanks to @RuthHarris_)

Gary went on to demonstrate how this is most evident in changing journal content (using the ‘Journal of Advanced Nursing’ (JAN) as an example) which has evolved over the past four decades with a growth in the publication of research papers and a corresponding decline in the number of scholarly papers. One reason for this might be the demands placed on institutions, on disciplines, on departments and on individuals to perform in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) and then the Research Excellence Framework (REF). Another reason could be the ambition of many journals to only publish research in an attempt to maximise their impact factors, leaving little room for scholarly papers. Gary concluded by asserting that we need to think about research differently and not as an end-in-itself. There needs to be a re-establishment of the balance between research and scholarship. I think it is fair to say that this message was well received by delegates.

Professor Alison Tierney (thanks to @BNursUoB)

There are a number of anniversaries being celebrated during this year’s conference; the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is celebrating 100 years, JAN is 40 years old and nursing at the University of Edinburgh is celebrating 60 years. Each is undoubtedly an achievement but on Day 2 it was interesting to learn a little more about the history of nurse education, research and scholarship in Edinburgh from Professor Alison Tierney. There is always a danger that looking backwards might be criticised as an unnecessary luxury but sometimes it can help to consider where nursing has come from so we can contemplate what direction the profession should take in the future. Whilst the challenges might have changed (we no longer need to wait three weeks for copies of journal papers to come by sea from the USA), the nursing profession and those now engaged in research have their own challenges, some of which were earlier highlighted by Professor Gary Rolfe.

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Sharing the stage with Graeme Smith, Debra Jackson & Carol Haigh

The scientific programme ended for the day with a fringe event on publication ethics hosted by professors Graeme Smith, Debra Jackson, Carol Haigh and myself (coincidentally four of the five members of the editorial team at the ‘Journal of Clinical Nursing’). The panel and delegates discussed five of the main issues important to the ethics of publication in nursing journals (authorship, redundant publication, conflict of interest, plagiarism and salami-slicing). It was interesting that the delegates contributing the discussion included experienced editors, clinical researchers, doctoral students, nursing students and others. Publication ethics is clearly of interest to many of us but with the growing requirement to publish, and the huge range to journals available to publish in (again returning to Gary Rolfe’s earlier keynote), ensuring the highest standards of publication ethics is becoming increasingly challenging.

Day 3 of the Conference includes much more interesting content including a keynote from Professor Walter Sermeus, 42 concurrent papers, 8 symposia, 23 posters and a debate. Surely something for everyone.


RCN International Nursing Research Conference – Day 1

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.


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.

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.


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.