Being asked to write something for this Blog I wondered if there was anything new I could contribute the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and International Council Nursing (ICN) discussion. As a disclaimer I have been a RCN member for over 30 years and I am also an ICN Global Nursing Leadership Institute (GNLI) Scholar having taken part in their annual transformational leadership programme in 2017. Having been part of the should we/shouldn’t we re-join the ICN conversations over the last two – three years on both social media and in person I witnessed a respectful debate as well as some passionate rhetoric from both sides. The worry of course is that we adopt a ‘Brexit’ mind-set with those for and against deeply entrenched in their opinions with little movement, as such perhaps it’s the middle ground that we need to focus on where perhaps we can build consensual agreement. Trying to understand what unites us as a nursing community (locally or globally) rather then what divides us (membership expense/value for money).
For me the ICN has been in the vanguard of developing international nursing policy, as well as working in partnership with major healthcare organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) focusing on the achievement of sustainable development goals (within which the health goal includes strengthening access to universal health coverage as well as reducing premature mortality from non-communicable diseases). International nursing is on the ascent with the appointment of the WHO Chief Nursing officer in 2017, the global campaign ‘Nursing Now’ (2017-2020) as well as the designation of the year 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and midwife” (in honour of the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale). All of these things the ICN has been involved in or has actively led on. All of this will have an impact upon us nursing in the United Kingdom, of course much of this we may benefit from irrespective of being an ICN member so why should we upset the status quo.
The reality is that if we aspire to have real political (healthcare and nursing) influence outside of the RCN and the UK then I think membership of the ICN is essential. If we have concerns around its governance and operations it is only from within that we can seriously address those as a fully-fledged member. If ‘Brexit’ teaches us anything is it that no longer being a member of a community leaves you alienated having to support certain rules while no longer taking part in their design.
While we observe from the outside it is too easy to get lost in rumours, innuendo and gossip as to the value of membership verses perceived cost.
Much has been made of the value of ICN global political leadership, and the weight that is carried with that but many of the other benefits get overlooked. At the ICN GNLI programme in 2017 I worked and learnt alongside nursing colleagues from all over the world who faced similar challenges and difficult situations but were able to individually and collectively problem solve and learn from one another.
We were able to share best practice within one another, research and education and to build lifelong working partnerships that span countries and boarders.
As before we don’t need the ICN to establish these communities of practice and networks of influence we can do them ourselves but as with most things there’s not enough time and other priorities take over.
I don’t know what the future holds for the RCN and the ICN, I know what my preference is but I am only a small part of a much larger conversation. I do think however it’s the middle ground that we need to meet at if we are to achieve a resolution.
Paul Trevatt is the Central North West London NHS Foundation Trust Clinical Service Manager for the Specialist Palliative Care Service