In Geneva, a Wider Perspective on Clara Barton’s Humanitarian Vision

By Jean Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor and founding dean (retired) at the George Washington University School of Nursing, member of the Red Cross National Nursing Committee, and Linda MacIntyre, PhD, RN, chief nurse American Red Cross

To Geneva, Oct. 2-3: The Red Cross Mission Is International

Red Cross and Red Crescent Symbols Outside ICRC Museum, Geneva

Red Cross and Red Crescent Symbols outside ICRC Museum, Geneva

The Clara Barton Study Tour was the idea and passion of Sue Hassmiller. As you may know from the most recent post in this series, Sue and her husband Bob were prevented from coming on this trip due to Bob’s tragic bicycle accident. Sue had insisted that Geneva needed to be part of the tour because it’s where she learned of Henri Dunant’s work to create the international Red Cross in Geneva. With Bob’s steady support in the planning phase, Sue had somehow made the trip a reality, with the second leg of the tour taking place here in Geneva.

The study tour in Geneva and the organizations we visited on our first two days there were in complete harmony with Bob’s commitment to the Red Cross. While Bob gave his time and energy to the American Red Cross, his spirit of giving clearly crossed international borders into war-torn cities where the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) brings humanitarian aid to victims of conflict—both to the civilian population as well as wounded fighters. The ICRC is led by the dynamic and caring director-general, Yves Daccord (in group photo below), who not only plans for current needs but looks to the future to plan for the future type of war that will be shaped by new technologies such as robots and artificial intelligence.

Bob would have been a staunch supporter of the work that ICRC is doing to protect health care workers in combat zones. The targeting of health workers goes against the agreements in the Geneva Conventions and has been as a strategy of groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. The project, Health Care in Danger: It’s a Matter of Life and Death, is one of the efforts of ICRC to protect health workers

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), headed by its secretary general Elhadj As Sy, is equally compelling in bringing to bear the power of all 190 societies to address the needs of individuals experiencing disaster. The Federation represents the largest humanitarian effort in the world, with an estimated 15.5 million volunteers and 400,000 paid staff. They reach approximately 160 million people a year through the 190 national societies.

While the ICRC works in combat zones, the IFRC works in all other types of disasters. We heard the secretary general tell compelling stories of how the IFRC has worked to create a more humanitarian world in the midst of great world pain.

It has been sobering to hear the world perspective of the challenges of the ICRC and the IFRC. The good news is that there are many more people who want to help others, whether in worn-torn areas or in areas affected by natural disasters, than those who want to harm others and create destruction. There is also a growing attention to creating resilience in communities after disasters as well as prevention activit

Geneva, Day 3: WHO, then the International Council of Nurses

sculpture outside WHO HQ

sculpture outside WHO HQ

At the WHO. Entering the World Health Organization building took us into an organization with the goal to build a better, healthier future for people all over the world. The conversation we had about the health care workforce was fascinating on many levels. There is an estimate of a future health workforce shortage of 4 million workers. Factors such as geographic maldistribution and a lack of training opportunities are contributing to the projected shortage.

We also discussed why the WHO Millennium Goal for reduction in maternal and child mortality has not been achieved. The major causes of maternal mortality are preventable, including hemorrhage and sepsis. The WHO work continues to address ways of preventing maternal and child mortality. The needs of women and children were also considered in the context of social determinants of health. In the poorest countries, housing, nutrition, clean water, sanitation, and jobs present the greatest challenges.

The ICN. The tour was concluded with a visit to International Council of Nurses (ICN) and a conversation with CEO Frances Hughes. The organization was founded in 1899, with the seed being planted by Ethel Fenwick, a British nurse who was forward thinking and advocated the professionalization of nursing, including a three-year training, standardized national curriculum, and a final examination. She was in direct conflict with Florence Nightingale about the professionalization issue.

Following the discussion of the history of the ICN was a focus on how to empower nurses to be entrepreneurs. Dr. Hughes recognizes that nurses worldwide have ideas about services and products that could be marketable. Nurses have tremendous opportunity to build businesses that will greatly aid people to pursue a healthy life and manage chronic and long-term disease.

In the course of the day, there was a tremendous amount of information, with lively dialogue throughout the Geneva portion of the tour. Each of our lives was changed by following in the footsteps of Clara Barton. The next step is reflecting on all we have learned and figuring out what actions each of us can take to make the world a better place. Again we are reminded not only of life of Clara, but also the lives of Bob and Sue Hassmiller. The world will miss Bob’s wonderful way of making the world a better place, but is lucky to have Sue continuing to do her tireless work.

The final post in this series, to be published tomorrow, will include ten lessons learned from the Clara Barton Tour.


2016-11-21T13:00:53+00:00 October 12th, 2016|Clara Barton 2016, Nursing, nursing history, Public health|0 Comments

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