You definitely won’t be bored on the Board!
Neil Tomlin shares his reflections of being on the RCM Board – and why RCM members should think about doing it too.
After a 40-year career as a midwife, and previously a nurse, I thought there wasn’t much more I had to give to the profession. I worked clinically for the first half of my career, before moving into management, then education, then taking a national role in maternity safety. You could argue that I’d done my time in midwifery – but I felt there was still more I could contribute.
Being a member of the RCM Board allows me to do just that – and I can use all the knowledge and experience of 40 years in the profession to help shape the College’s direction. I have been a member of the RCM since 1990 and had seen it go through a number of changes in directions (not all of them I supported!). However, in the last 10 years I felt that the College had strengthened its vision and had strong and dynamic leadership. Talking with existing board members I was encouraged to consider applying to join the board and support this changing direction. The two halves of the RCM (professional and trade union) needed to align and work seamlessly if the College was going to fulfil all of the strategic aims set by the Board. The thought that I could help to influence this as a member of the Board was both exciting and motivating, so I applied and hoped that my peers would support my application through the ballot – luckily they did.
Having a robust background in governance, quality and safety within maternity services, I felt that I could bring an enquiring and challenging approach to the board discussions. The Board members’ role is primarily to ensure that the wider RCM team is delivering the strategic objectives set by the Board and that as a ‘business’ that it remains viable and well managed. Having had leadership roles in the NHS this helped in being able to interpret the data around budgets etc. and importantly to hold the senior team to account should the performance dip or veer off course.
Every board is a sum of its parts, with people around the table who bring different and complimentary skills and knowledge. For the RCM Board, this means having midwives and MSWs from all areas and regions of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as different disciplines, from clinical to education to management. I would hope to see a future RCM Board reflect all the diversity and job roles of the current RCM membership. We need strong and passionate activists as well as people with a strong governance background.
The discussions that you have as a board member gives you a really good insight into the current political agenda. That’s politics with both a large P and a small p. Hearing the voice and reflecting the membership is vitally important and as a board member you can take certain messaging back into practice. Encouraging midwives and MSWs to vote on important issues, like the pay consultation, is vital to enable the RCM to truly represent the views of the membership and drive for improvements in the terms and conditions of everyone.
Even after 40 years in the profession, being a member of the RCM Board has shown me that not only can I still contribute, but there are still things I can learn. With nominations about to open for this year’s Board elections, I would strongly encourage RCM members to think about putting themselves forward. It’s a great experience and a fantastic way to contribute to the development of the College, as well as broadening your own knowledge and experience.