Eighteen months ago, with my friend Paul Jebb and a group of determined and passionate nurse activists I set up a campaign group called “We Are Global Nurses”. As a group we believe in the power of nurses as an international force for good. We believe that the most effective way for UK nurses to maximise our impact is to join with nurse colleagues across the world. We are lobbying for our union and professional organisation the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to join the International Council of Nurses (ICN) so UK nurses can have a global influence.
The campaign started from a conversation on twitter after following the ICN Congress hashtag in 2017. The conference was dynamic, relevant and demonstrated a colourful expression of international nurse power. Many of us rightly questioned why the UK were not present and committed ourselves to ensuring that this changed.
Its been a journey of ups and downs revealing many challenges in the practicalities of re-joining and in changing attitudes. However, the challenges have only fuelled our determination and commitment to moving this forward.
I am privileged that my local RCN branch agreed that on their behalf I could present a matter for discussion at RCN congress last week which invited all views. I learnt many things from this debate.
I have learnt that some are cautious about joining ICN until details of cost and business are crystal clear. I have nothing but respect for these individuals and their commitment to ensuring the membership fees of UK nurses are wisely spent. I have learnt that we do not have answers to the questions we need to do a deal and that the only way we can find them is to ask. Overall, I have learnt that the tide of opinion is turning and many nurses, notably students and front line staff are expressing a global awareness and a desire to act globally by being part of ICN.
I tried to present the debate in a fair and balanced manner to encourage all views as I am aware that since I started the campaign I have been surrounded by those who share my perspective. I am glad I took this approach as this has led to some fantastic conversations after the debate where people on both sides of the argument have taken a step towards each other.
Moving forward I believe the content of the debate gives the RCN a mandate to talk to ICN and ask about their work and the cost of membership. Next year is the year of the nurse, the world is moving fast and the impact of nurses is so great that I believe this must be done in a proactive and persistent way. For me and for the campaign, everything we can do to support this will be offered because there is a fierce urgency to do this right now.
Jeni Watts is a nurse and one of the coordinators of the "We Are Global Nurses" campaign.