The Royal College of Nursing or RCN is the world's largest professional union of nurses with a membership of over 340,000 comprising registered nurses, nursing students, health care assistants and nurse cadets. It was established in 1916 as the College of Nursing with only 34 members and received its Royal Charter in 1928 when adopted its current name.
For most of its early life it was a women-only organisation and it was not until 1960 that men were permitted to join. The RCN became an independent trade union in 1977 and in 1995 abandoned its no strike commitment and announced that it would in future be prepared to take industrial action that did not harm patients. It is not affiliated to the Trades Union Congress and is in fact the second largest unaffiliated union in the country.