Radical Nurses Group (RNG) was set up in 1980 ‘by and for nurses because of the dissatisfaction so many of us have about so many aspects of our jobs’. As a support-group-cum-pressure-group, it attempted to situate discussions about the problems and contradictions inherent in nursing within wider social discourses. Although deeply political, its relationship with established trades unions was sometimes an uneasy one: as an avowedly feminist organisation, it tended to see union solutions as problematically ‘masculine’. An early article describes RNG as ‘a way of getting together, to support each other, to help us feel we’re not alone, to moan together perhaps, to discuss our common problems but also hopefully to act together to change things’ (source: COHSE Union blogspot: http://cohse-union.blogspot.co.uk/2006/09/radical-nurses-group-estb-1980.html)
The Radical Nurses Archive has a permanent home at the RCN Archive in Edinburgh, but Grumbling Appendix has recently had unrestricted access to it. The most interesting part of the collection are the RNG newsletters. They contain articles on a variety of topics and give an authentic flavour of 1980s agitation as experienced and produced by nurses. For the website, I have arranged the material not chronologically, but by theme (industrial relations, feminism etc). Many of the contributors went on to become prominent nurse academics.
Radical Nurses membership was never large; the group disbanded in about 1990, but many of the issues covered in the newsletters are still current today. According to the COHSE website ‘This small grouping did have a significant impact in the area of politics in nursing, particularly in challenging stereotyping of nurses’. A new account of the significance of Radical Nurses and the archive can be read at: http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/asking_questions_with_the_radical_nursing_group
The archive is not complete. It contains newsletters nos. 1, 2, 5, 6, unnumbered possibly 7, 8, and unnumbered editions from 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1989. If you would like to contribute any memories (or memorabilia – especially missing newsletters) of Radical Nurses, or if you see your work reproduced on the Archive pages and would like it publicly credited to you, please get in touch.