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Are we having the right conversation? Gerry Bolger

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

As a long-standing member of the college, and a Council member when the original decision was made to leave the ICN, in which I didn’t support; I have been both a silent observer and mildly active on the We are Global Nurses campaign.

Many would ask, why would you? Firstly, as an RCN member now living in Europe, I watch with interest what the RCN is doing, I also watch what the ICN is doing to both unify, support the profession at a time of sheer stress, challenge but unwavering dedication to caring regardless of where we are or how we contribute to our patients, their families and carers.

But secondly, what has struck me through this consultation period is the conversation being stuck on money over benefits, and I ask myself why we as a professional college, are we collectively having the right conversation?

The conversation I believe we should be having is what has happened since leaving the ICN to understand why this is an opportunity not to be missed. This became apparent to me when I read that the ICN recently revised the ICN Code of Ethics, and looking at it, I noted it made reference to something hugely important and relevant to my practice, where it touches on ‘Changing technologies mean we have to make choices we didn’t have to make before’;and while this is pertinent, the sad situation is that the voice of nursing in the UK, one of the largest in the developed world could not contribute to a code which is both powerful and affects every registered nurse and midwife.

It made me ask, what else have we ‘missed’ by not being collectively part of the international community of nurses? Having researched this, it appears by not being a member there have been consultations on advance practice nursing, and multiple position statements on topics such as health information, protecting people’s right, informed patients (2015); nurses & social media (2015); antimicrobial resistance (2017); prevention & management of workplace violence (2017); health of migrants, refugees & displaced peoples (2018); evidence-based nurse staffing (2018); nurses, climate change & health (2018); nurses & disaster risk reduction, response & recovery (2019); international career mobility & ethical nurse recruitment. Even this year there; been work done on mental health (2020). If we look at these, some have been on the are agenda’s our College have looked at over the decades in one form or another. There’s more than just all this!

Many members will say, ‘and so what?’ Well, the ‘what” is they trigger and influence national polices and practice changes which aligns nursing across the globe. Where practice is aligned and we have consensus on matters of importance to the collegiate of global nursing, it is then difficult for national governments to ignore. It empowers the four Chief Nursing Officers to start dealing with contentious agendas important to the nurses in their devolved administrations. It enables mature conversations to happen. It enables powerful unity, consensus and collegiate approach.

The unity we are missing is like this weekend, where the G20 nations are meeting and the ICN has called on them to to prioritise and protect nurses for the benefit of all humanity. The timing of this call is very relevant especially as we are on the dawn of a new era with a pandemic. Alas, while there are G20 countries, there is only G19 nursing organisations in that collective.

Our college was a leader in nursing, it is weaker without us being a member of the ICN. If we focus on the fractional cost, rather than the collective community we become a member of, with and the abilities membership give us, we have missed the point of this consultation, but more importantly, what nursing is fundamentally about.

If all it takes is £1 per member to achieve that, it is money well spent. In fact, it is us investing in the global profession of nursing, a collegiate profession when at a time like now, where we are key to ensure the global vaccination programme starts with us to hopefully eradicate COVID19.

Gerry Bolger

Is an independent nurse advisor in clinical informatics, and digital healthcare.

Director DigitalGerry Services Ltd.


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