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.

4 thoughts on “About

  1. Interesting. I’d never heard of them before. We really need a dedicated left-wing nursing union in the UK. The RCN is weak and conservative and the interests of Unison, GMB and Unite are too broad.

  2. Thank you for commenting. I agree that we need more political awareness amongst nurses. On the other hand, many nurses are so apolitical that a ‘dedicated left-wing union’ might be too strong a proposition for them to stomach.

    One of the reasons I supported the move to an all-graduate profession was my hope that it might increase awareness amongst nurses of their own predicament…I think this is a work in progress.

    All public sector professions are to some extent hampered in their attempts to set their own agenda by whatever political agenda the government of the day chooses to pursue. Because nursing has historically had such a weak professional identity (i.e. it can be characterised as ‘the bits of care other people don’t want to do”), it has been an easy target for bullying governments. My own view therefore is that what would help nursing most is greater professional awareness and, secondary to that, a more confident professional voice. Politics with a small ‘p’ in other words.

    I see you have started following this blog, but there won’t be any more posts here because I don’t have any more material. One of my other blogs contains more recent nursing commentaries, most of which I have written myself. You can view it at https://grumblingappendix.wordpress.com/. I still write plenty, but following a traumatic personal experience, I don’t write about nursing any more.but (and this is a World Exclusive), I am currently considering other ways of serving the profession.

    In the meantime, if you want to know about my shitty experiences of trying to find a decent meal in Coventry, hop over to The Veg Diner Monologues: https://avegetariangoestolunch.wordpress.com/

  3. I was in this group in the 1980s, attending a couple of meetings, getting their newsletters, and I carried Jane Salvage’s book around like a bible. It had a huge effect on me at the time, and though I no longer nurse (I moved into teaching and researching sociology, now I am a full-time carer and lost my academic work because of systemic failure to accommodate my own impairments, sadly) I can say my sociological imagination was kickstarted by this group and Salvage’s book. An important part of my own political awareness history.

  4. Thank you for commenting. I think Jane’s book, though of its time, was ground breaking and hugely influential. Nursing had very little academic grounding in those days and the book’s genius is perhaps that of putting potentially difficult ideas into simple language that everyone could relate to and understand.

    I was also very greatly influenced by Celia Davies’ book ‘Gender and the Professional Predicament in Nursing’.

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