Together we are louder, better, stronger - Rachel Hollis
The global pandemic of 2020 has thrown into sharp focus the interconnected nature of our global society. We share the same health challenges: communicable disease; the rising burden of non-communicable disease, and widening inequality impacting on health outcomes. Inequalities we see between countries, from rich to poor, and within countries, including the UK.
Nurses are critical to meeting those challenges. Nurses and midwives make up the largest part of the global health care workforce. We work at every level of health care and in every sector of society. Nurses are recognised as essential to helping the global community improve population health, to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and to addressing gender inequality.
In working to meet those challenges, international collaboration is essential. Today I have been catching up on the ‘Tweet Chat’ on #WeNurses last night on the theme of international collaboration. I was encouraged by such positive messages on the value of ‘global nursing’. I saw nurses talking together of the importance of sharing nursing knowledge, expertise and wisdom; sharing resources, learning, and best practice.
There are of course many ways to collaborate in the international arena. I am a children’s cancer nurse, I work through the International Society of Paediatric Oncology to learn from and advocate for children’s cancer nurses across the globe. Many Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members already work internationally; the College is part of a number of significant networks and alliances, and some would argue already has a voice and a presence on the world stge. So why do I think that the RCN should re-join the International Council of Nurses (ICN)?
First, because it as a truly global organisation, with member organisations from more than 130 countries across the world, representing more than 20 million nurses. This is different from other (important) alliances and networks based on geographical regions, or the history of the commonwealth. As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, we need to look to our international presence, and I believe that this should be within the ICN. Founded in 1899, it was the first international organisation to bring together nurses and nursing organisations from across the world with the aim of both advancing the profession, and improving the socio-economic status of nurses. These aims remain embedded in the pillars on which the ICN builds its work; Professional Practice, Regulation & Education, and Socio-economic welfare. These align closely to both our Royal College charter and to the key priorities of our trade union function.
Next, because ICN brings together all fields and specialities of nursing. A number of existing alliances address the needs of a particular speciality, cancer care for example. The vision of the ICN is one that resonates with me personally, ‘for the global community to recognise, support, and invest in nurses and nursing so that they can lead and deliver health for all’.
The ICN is the only international nursing organisation which is in ‘formal relations’ with the World Health Organisation (WHO). Some have argued that the RCN is already an influential actor on the world stage. Whilst there is some truth in this, the RCN does not have the right to participate in the World Health Assembly where the ICN is the only nursing organisation able to make interventions. The RCN has provided support to the Nursing Now campaign, but that campaign is a programme of the Burdett Trust for Nursing, run in collaboration with the WHO and the ICN. The legacy work of Nursing Now will, at the end of 2020, pass to the ICN. The ICN was co-chair of the first ever ‘State of the World’s Nursing Report, published by the WHO to mark this International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. This report calls for investment in nursing jobs, education, and leadership, and by re-joining the ICN we can contribute to taking forward the recommendations of that report.
By re-joining the ICN the RCN would be raising the voice of nursing in the UK alongside those of national nursing organisations from around the world, strengthening the voice of the ICN on the world stage. Together we are louder, better, stronger.
Rachel Hollis is an Honorary Nurse Advisor in Children’s Cancer Care at the Leeds Children’s Hospital. She is Chair of the RCN Professional Nursing Committee but is writing in a personal capacity.