How to use the RCN Learn glossary

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Access levels

RCN Learn is available to RCN members, RCNi Plus subscribers, individuals (without a membership or subscription) and organisations.

  1. Anyone with a free account can access a selection of learning resources and save their favourites. You only need an email and password to register.

  2. RCN members can access free and member-only learning resources and save their favourites. This includes 100+ quality-assured clinical guidance pieces.

  3. RCNi Plus subscribers can access free and subscriber-only learning resources and save their favourites. Only RCNi Plus subscribers can access RCNi peer-reviewed CPD articles, learning modules, and bitesize learning.

  4. Individuals and organisations can find, buy, and access information about our courses via RCN Learn (with no need to be an RCN member). These include leadership programmes, accredited courses, masterclasses, webinars, and more. Explore our organisational products.


Accreditation is a mark of quality and the RCN seal of approval for health care training. All accredited events and courses have passed a rigorous quality assessment. They meet the RCN standards of excellence, promote best practice, and lead to improved patient care. Explore RCN Accreditation.

Bitesize learning

Bitesize courses offer short and simple sections in a range of formats to fit around your schedule. They introduce key principles and concepts. Examples include: End of Life Care and Nursing Wellbeing, Introduction to Prehabilitation and Introducing Critical Care. Certificates are available upon completion for a selection of courses.

Case study

Our case studies offer you an insight into the perspective of the patient or health care professional. These may be fictional to help you develop your understanding of a situation or based on real-life experiences.

Clinical guidance

Clinical guidance resources, which offer advice and information across a wide range of subject areas, are regularly updated and reviewed by RCN and RCNi subject experts and resource leads. Examples include: Diabetes Essentials, Skin Health Toolkit, and the Career Pathway and Education Framework for Cancer Nursing.


At a conference, people gather to learn about a specific topic, from one hour to a few days. This can happen on location, online, or via a mixture of both. For example, the RCN Congress is held at a location in the UK.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is learning that helps you stay up to date, enhance and improve your professional practice. Every three years, registered nurses, midwives and nursing associates are required to revalidate with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). During this process, you must prove that you remain fit to practice and provide evidence of your CPD. You can record and save your CPD in your free RCNi revalidation portfolio if you are an RCN member or RCNi Plus subscriber. CPD evidence can include the time you spend on RCN learning resources and events. Additionally, you can complete study for 20 academic credits from Coventry University for a selection of RCN programmes at either Level 6 (Bachelor's degree) or Level 7 (Masters degree). Learn more about the RCNi Revalidation Portfolio.


We use the word ‘course’ as a generic term to describe a range of learning modules and programmes. With RCNi modules, you can do them in your own time and in any order you wish. Our courses often include podcasts, videos, documents, exercises, assignments, quizzes, reflections, and more. Most courses are online and on-demand (accessible at any time), offering flexibility to learners. Some courses include live sessions via video conference platforms, such as Microsoft Teams. Upon completion, learners may get a certificate (not all courses are certified), with some courses offering academic credits. Search for courses on RCN Learn.


Credentialing is the process of assessing the background and legitimacy of nurses to practice at an advanced level through assessing their qualifications, experience and competence. Explore RCN Credentialing.



Frameworks support safe professional practice and shape nursing care. They provide the health and social care workforce with the competencies, guidance and standards needed to make clinical decisions.


Funding is available via a number of charitable sources, including the RCN. The RCN Foundation is an independent charity whose purpose is to support and strengthen nursing and midwifery, to improve the health and wellbeing of the public. It does this by providing grants for hardship, education and research. The RCN Foundation can also help identify other sources of funding available. You do not have to be an RCN member, or British, to receive support, but you need to be based in the UK. Visit the RCN Foundation website to discover if you are eligible, or how you can donate to support the learning of others.


The RCN provides clinical information to help nurses and health care professionals. These cover a range of subjects offering support, advice and signposting. All RCN guidance resources are quality-assured and reviewed annually by RCN resource leads and forums.


An in-house event or training session can take place at either your workplace or at a venue that has been agree with us. It is run by internal staff and employees, rather than being outsourced by a third-party training provider.



At a lecture, people gather in person or watch as an on-demand video to learn from a speaker about a specific topic or personal experience. This will usually last for around one to two hours. 


Subject matter experts facilitate RCN masterclasses as one-off events that usually last one full day. An example of this includes our ‘Demonstrating Value’ masterclass, which is designed for health and social care staff leading service transformation and improvement.


On location

In cases where you see the words ‘on location’, the venue may not be confirmed yet or there may be several to choose from.

One-to-one coaching

During one-to-one coaching, an expert will guide and support you to engage in your own growth and knowledge. You can ask them specific questions that are tailored to your needs. The RCN's Coventry-accredited programmes, such as 'Infection, Prevention and Control', include six hours of one-to-one coaching.

Online and/or on location

Some courses may be online and held at a location in the UK (with location options available).

Online (courses)

Online resources can include filmed webinars, either shown as live or on-demand (pre-recorded from live events or recorded as if they were live).

Online, on-demand and live session (courses)

RCN programmes are made up of a mixture of online, on-demand, and live online sessions.

Online, on-demand (courses)

These courses can be found online, with pre-recorded videos/podcasts that be accessed at a time that is convenient to you.

Organisational products

Individuals and organisations can find, buy, and access information about our courses via RCN Learn (with no need to be an RCN member). These include leadership programmes, accredited courses, masterclasses, webinars, and more. Explore our organisational products.

PDF (Portable Document Format)

A PDF is a file you can open in a browser—similar to a webpage—download and save to your mobile phone, computer, or print out. It can include a single page or many pages. Most pages will have text, images and links to further information.


A podcast is an audio recording that you can listen to on your phone, laptop or digital device. A podcast may comprise a series of episodes covering a range of topics and themes. Depending on the audio streaming platform, you can often download episodes to listen to offline by saving them to your library. RCN podcasts are usually accompanied by a written transcript. 


See: ‘Revalidation Portfolio’.

Professional Development

Whether you are a student nurse, nursing support worker, nursing associate, newly qualified, or have years of experience behind you, professional development is the process of gaining new skills, and/or enhancing existing skills. RCN Learn hosts a selection of resources to enhance your professional development and progress in your career. Topics are of interest to nursing support workers, registered nurses, nursing support workers and nurses who are returning to work. See also: ‘CPD (Continuing Professional Development)’.


RCN Programmes offer live presentations and workshops, or a combination of live and on-demand learning (blended learning), often followed by personal assignments. Live sessions are delivered via video conferencing platforms such as Microsoft Teams, or on location. On-demand learning can be accessed at any time, offering flexibility to the learner. This includes podcasts, videos, documents, exercises, assignments, quizzes, reflections, and more. Certificates are available upon completion, and the programmes may or may not be awarded academic credits. Explore our programmes on the Organisational Products page.


RCN publications are available to download as PDF documents. They may comprise a report, article, or educational material, and use a mixture of text, graphics and tables. Our publications cover a wide range of topics, varying from clinical guidance to employment issues. Explore the RCN's publications.

Quality Assurance Framework (QAF)

The RCN’s Quality Assurance Framework (QAF) ensures that the RCN’s Nine Quality Standards are met in all RCN Learn resources. We develop and manage RCN Learn resources following the agreed quality lifecycle—from production to implementation, evaluation and review, re-issue or withdrawal.



The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is the largest professional body providing educational, wellbeing, workplace, and trade union support to over half a million nurses, midwives, healthcare support workers, nurse students, and others, working together to advance their profession. The RCN Group includes:

  • RCN Learn: Hundreds of quality-assured learning resources, many which are exclusive and free for members. 
  • RCN Library: Europe’s largest clinical library that is free to use for members.
  • RCNi: Subscribe to RCNi Plus, or NS Student, to access 10 nursing journals and their archives, including evidence-based, peer-reviewed clinical and CPD articles, as well as learning modules, CPD quizzes, and news and information to help further your career.
  • RCN Foundation: A charity which offers education grants to members and non-members.

RCN Foundation

RCN Foundation is an independent charity which supports and strengthens nursing and midwifery to improve the health and wellbeing of the public, by providing grants for hardship, education, and research. You do not have to be an RCN member, or British, to apply for the Foundation’s support, but you do need to be based in the UK. Visit the RCN Foundation website to discover if it can support you, or how you can donate to support the learning of others. 

RCN Learn

RCN Learn is a free service from the RCN Group, offering quality-assured learning resources for the health and social care workforce (nurses, midwives, healthcare support workers, nurse students, and others). It brings together learning content from the RCN and RCNi in a single, searchable, online space. Search on RCN Learn. 

RCN Library and Archive Service

The RCN Library and Archive Service is Europe’s largest nursing-specific collection of print and online books, journals, and databases, which also provides training, support, events, and exhibitions. Everyone can access the RCN Library and Archive Service in a limited way. Unlimited access is granted to RCN members and attendees of RCN programmes that are two weeks or longer. Visit the RCN Library.


RCNi is part of the RCN Group. RCNi provides access to 10 independent nursing journals, including Nursing Standard, through a premium subscription service, discounted for members. Subscribers also get access to over 170 learning modules and CPD quizzes. Stay up to date with the latest news and developments with an RCNi Plus subscription or NS Student aimed at pre-registration students. Explore RCNi.


Reflection allows you to look back on a recent event or incident to understand how it has affected your professional practice. By carrying out a reflection, you can identify areas for learning and development. In doing so, it can help you to think about, plan and deliver high-quality care to patients/clients. 

Revalidation Portfolio

Registered nurses, midwives and nursing associates who revalidate with the NMC can use the Revalidation Portfolio to help them build, store and track their evidence for revalidation. Free to use for RCN members as well as RCNi Plus subscribers, you can add CPD hours, upload reflective accounts, log practice hours and feedback, and, when ready, download your portfolio to an easily portable PDF document. Learn more about the Revalidation Portfolio.



A template is a pre-formatted document that you can complete with text and graphics or multimedia content. For example, in the ‘Care Home Journey’ resource, we provide a 'Care Home’ PDF template which you can download and edit or print out and complete by hand.  


Videos are recordings that can show animations (with 2D or 3D drawings or text) or images of real-life events (for example, webinars or lectures). They can be any duration, from five minutes to 2 hours’ long, and are normally subtitled. 


Webinars are live interactive sessions hosted via a video conferencing platform such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. They are usually recorded to view later and on-demand, so that you can watch them in your own time.


At an RCN workshop, people come together to share evidence or work on a project. The session may be used to solve a problem or develop a new resource. It is often an interactive learning session, led by a subject matter expert or resource lead. This could also be a skills workshop with between 15 and 80 people, offering them a facilitated discussion around a specific topic—usually lasting for one or three hours.