Nurses Taking Care of Business on a Global Scale

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

Old capitol of Malta, the walled city of Mdina

Since many readers may not know about international nursing, here’s a primer (for those who are interested) that provides some context for my upcoming blog posts from the International Council of Nurses (ICN) meeting in Malta (accompanied by some photos of the city from my morning bus ride).

The Council of National Representatives (CNR), the governing body of the ICN,  meets before the actual ICN meeting. Members are the representatives of the 134 national nursing associations (NNAs) of member countries—there’s one official voting member representing each NNA, but there can be additional nonvoting representatives, depending upon the various membership options (I won’t bore you with more details here—you can find details here on the ICN Web site). The ICN was established in 1899 and meets every two years. 

Grand Harbor in Valetta, Malta

The CNR meetings cover a lot of policy and procedure issues and the like, but they also provide a venue for feedback from member countries about problems and issues that the ICN should address. This year, the issues forums were on

  • changing labor markets.
  • social determinants of health.
  • nurse prescribing.
  • speaking with one voice.

On Tuesday, I ran into Lucille Joel on the way to the labor forum. Lucille, a professor at Rutgers University College of Nursing, is a former president of the ANA and a former first vice-president of the ICN; she was also the editor-at-large at AJN in the 1990s. We agreed that the issues we were hearing about were not so different from those raised in prior ICN meetings and not so different among the various countries, though they vary in extreme between developed and developing countries. The requests and suggestions made to rectify them were not so different either.

The ‘burning issue.’
During one session, I asked ICN president, Rosemary Bryant of Australia, what was the “burning issue” of this ICN meeting. She immediately said, “The global economical downturn—it’s driving everything else.”

Yes, we’d been wrestling with many of the issues—nurses migrating from poor countries to richer countries, the unequal distribution of illness and basic resources among the poor, no standardized basic nursing school curriculum in many countries, lack of nurses in leadership positions, and the need for nurses to speak with one voice, to name a few—for a long time before the global economic downturn. But the global nature of the downturn has led to an unprecedented lack of resources as countries and organizations that could be counted on to support programs have had to cut back or cut off this support.

In some developing countries, nurses are working but not being paid. Associations depend on member dues to support themselves; in turn, ICN is supported by member dues from associations. With many countries experiencing membership declines, ICN dues go partially paid or unpaid . . . which in turn reduces its resources to support nursing worldwide.

The irony is not lost on Bryant—she says that at the time support is most needed, the resources to supply it are dwindling as well.

2016-11-21T13:13:18+00:00 May 5th, 2011|Nursing|8 Comments

About the Author:

Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

8 Comments

  1. Fresia Torres, RN August 6, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    The global economical downturn has clearly and undeniably had a strong effect on every single line of the economy, and healthcare has not been the exception. Numerous healthcare projects have been waiting to be approved but unfortunately the lack of funding has been the main reason for those projects not to be completed and started. The economic crisis has affected health care on a global scale.
    We as nurses need to continue supporting the organizations that represents us globally such as the International Council of Nurses (ICN), and as healthcare professional we must be actively involved in supporting projects that will benefit healthcare globally.

  2. Ana De La Vega, RN August 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Some of the issues that nurses are facing around the world are directly related to the lack of funds most of the healthcare systems in the world are having to deal with. There is an unprecedented lack of resources worldwide, and the healthcare industry has not been immune to this problem. Thousands of healthcare projects waiting to be developed by healthcare providers and developers globally have been delayed due to the lack of funds. In todays economic climate it is very difficult to get the funding necessary for any healthcare related project. We as nurses, must get together around organizations like the International Council of Nurses (ICN) to have our voice heard.

  3. Jennifer M August 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    This article summarizes the main issues that nurses are facing around the world. The economy affects health care on a global scale. On a local and state level, healthcare in the United States is mainly struggling with reimbursements and the uninsured. While in developing countries, they are confronting issues that deal with the lack of leadership and basic curriculum, to name a few. Personally, this article encourages myself as a healthcare professional to get involved in organizations such as the International Council of Nurses (ICN) to help improve healthcare on a global level. As healthcare professionals, we need to take the stand to help support causes that will help benefit the furtherance of healthcare.

  4. andrene August 10, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    This article really brought to light some of my feelings regarding the lack of strength in our profession. I was very impressed with the subject matters on the agenda at this meeting. The one that hit the biggest with me was nursing unification and speaking with one voice. This goes toward the statement that we are more powerful in numbers. I strongly believe, that if you are not willing to stand up and be counted in the voting process, but instead chose to sit back waiting on someone else to do it. We will never succeed. The International Council of Nurses agenda proposes what is required to help place nurses in more leadership positions.

  5. Miclide Patrice August 1, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    It is obvious the economic recession is affecting health care delivery everywhere around the world as evidenced by the reduction of basic resources, shortage of nursing school curriculum, and lack of nurse administrators. However, it was surprising to know that some nurses in developing countries were working without getting paid in order meet the people’s health needs. Yet, some nurses have chosen to move to developed countries because they are offered greater opportunity to ameliorate their lives. To improve global health, we should come together and support organizations such as International Council of Nurses (ICN) that is helping improve health care delivery and nursing education.

  6. Miclide August 1, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    It is obvious the economic recession is affecting health care delivery everywhere around the world as evidenced by the reduction of basic recourses, shortage of nursing school curriculum, and lack of nurse administrators. However, it was surprising to know that some nurses in developing countries were working without getting paid in order meet the people’s health needs. Yet, some nurses have chosen to move to developed countries because they are offered greater opportunity to ameliorate their lives. To improve global health, I think we should come together and support organizations such as International Council of Nurses (ICN) that is helping improve health care delivery and nursing education.

  7. Mike Cantalupo, R.N. August 1, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    The global economy effects health care delivery on a worldwide scale. World superpowers such as the United States are struggling with health care delivery systems strained by diminished reimbursement and reduced resources. On a global scale, developing countries struggle to provide health care, vaccinations and medicine to their respective populations. As nursing professionals we have a moral and ethical obligation to help support organizations such as the ICN in order to promote its objectives and empower programs that promote improved health care delivery and nursing education on a global basis. Only by supporting these type of efforts can we begin to improve global health.

  8. […] as their nation’s representatives in the Council of National Representatives (see an earlier post describing ICN activities); some came for the educational sessions, or to share experiences or […]

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