To: Don Wise, chief executive

From: Paul Servant, assistant chief executive

RE: Go with the Flo

Dear Don

I've been at the Royal College of Nursing congress trying to understand what makes nurses tick. They really are an odd bunch, made up of a number of loose tribes. There's the obvious division between those who actually nurse and those who are nurses thinking about nurses who actually nurse. I'm still not quite sure what it means to be a nurse leader in the various nursing bureaucracies around the NHS.

Nursing leaders don't have operational responsibility for nursing and yet have huge teams in charge of not nursing. They don't like being typecast but seem really pleased to be allowed to call the chair if the ward's grotty. They get to do the patient and public involvement stuff because no one else wants it and they write the uniform policy.

On the wards it's a bit different. Peter Carter has called for an average nurse to be paid£34,000. So what should the good ones earn? And they are so, so precious about status. They claim not to be "too posh to wash" or "too clever to care" because they always remember the Lady with the Lamp's motto of "first, do no harm". Well if they don't touch the patient there is not much chance of any harm happening. Why is it though that nursing needs these statements of the bleeding obvious like "Wash your hands"?

In fact everything's a campaign for them. Just look at Nursing Standard's campaign list on its website - Operation Clean Up, Right to Nurse, Lifting the Lid, Making Time, Welcome to Nurse Here, Quiet Power, Charter for Change... the list drones on. But then give them some responsibility and it's all, "too much paperwork", "I could be a doctor", "not my responsibility".

It just felt that those professional nurses who lead and chant, as opposed to those who do dare, are a bit like the Liberal Democrats - very worthy, fairly pointless and a little whiffy. And check the nurse bank usage during congress week... I bet it shot up.