Nursing as an International Profession

For much of my nursing career, I functioned as a 100% American-minded nurse.

Even though the Ebola epidemic had trickled right into my city, before I attended a global health day at the United Nations (UN) during Nurses Week in 2015, I’d neglected to really consider nursing at the international level.

Until I listened to non-governmental organization (NGO) subject matter experts’ briefings and toured the restricted areas at the UN where global decisions were made, my view of nursing had been largely consumed with understanding things in my own backyard: my day-to-day struggles as a new nursing leader at work, the evolving Affordable Care Act (ACA), and finding ways to apply the IOM Report on the Future of Nursing to my own clinical and academic practice.

My mono-continental nursing mind began to open that day.

The briefings, and most importantly, the subsequent friendships I kindled with nurses involved in international policy work through NGOs like Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) and the Nightingale Initiative for Global Health, began to help me realize how interdependently we all practice together on a global stage and how attainable international involvement actually is.

Earlier this winter, a new nursing friend, Holly Shaw, PhD, RN, chair of the UN Advisory Council for STTI, asked me if I was attending the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Congress in Barcelona (May 27–June 1). I said I hadn’t even thought of it, but she urged me to ask AJN’s editor-in-chief Shawn Kennedy to take  me along to the conference and let me use one of AJN‘s two media passes. By the end of the day, I’d contacted Shawn and was registered to attend as her sidekick. I leave for Barcelona Wednesday night.

Blogging from Barcelona.

Along with Shawn Kennedy, I’ll be writing posts here at AJN’s blog and using my Twitter handle @ajandersonrn, and also on my own blog, This Nurse Wonders. We’ll be interviewing some big nursing names, and some new ones that have never graced this blog.

Joining thousands of international nurses to talk policy, leadership, and international health topics is, of course, a dream come true for a nerdy nurse such as myself. But the world is huge, nursing policy varied and complex, and there are many terms, organizations, and people to learn about, even just within the ICN Congress Guide. Here are a few basics in case the international health care world is relatively new to you.

  • The ICN is comprised of over 130 national nurses associations (NNAs) that represent over 16 million professional nurses around the world. The member national nursing association for the United States is the American Nurses Association (ANA). ICN has existed since 1899 (a year before AJN began), and lauds itself as the largest professional health care organization of its kind in the world. The work of ICN, according to its website, is “to ensure quality nursing care for all, sound health policies globally, the advancement of nursing knowledge, and the presence worldwide of a respected nursing profession and a competent and satisfied nursing workforce.” The current president of the ICN is Dr. Judith Shamian.
  • The ICN Congress occurs every two years. Any nurse who is a member of national nursing association can attend or submit materials for presentation. Internationally respected American nurses such as former Acting Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mary Wakefield, and nurse scientist and leading staffing expert Linda Aiken will join renowned speakers from around the world.
  • 2017 ICN Congress objectives.
    • To demonstrate and advance the nursing contribution to informed and sustainable health policy.
    • To support nursing’s contribution to evidence-based health care and encourage problem-solving approaches to health care challenges.
    • To provide opportunities for an in-depth exchange of experience and expertise within and beyond the international nursing community
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialty agency of the UN that focuses on global public health. The current director general of the WHO is Margaret Chan, but election of her replacement is now underway at the meeting of its governing body, the World Health Assembly. The elected candidate will take office on July 1. The WHO published a strategic report on nursing and midwifery last year, but lacks a strong nursing presence in its governing leadership.
  • Non-governmental 0rganizations (NGO) are not for profit but work in tandem with governmental or intergovernmental organizations like the UN. The term NGO was coined when the UN was born in 1945, and many, such as the global arm of STTI and the Nightingale Initiative for Global Health, work on global health issues with the UN.
  • Sustainable Development Goals. In 2015, the UN published 17 sustainable development goals (SDG) to lead their strategy for development across the globe. The ICN recently launched a campaign, Voice to Lead, which explains nurses’ role in achieving these development goals.

My goals for the week: to eat as much Spanish seafood as possible, to ride a bike every day, and to learn as much as I can about international nursing, so that I can convince you to dive in, too!

2017-06-07T11:48:26+00:00 May 23rd, 2017|Nursing|0 Comments

About the Author:

I'm a nurse with a critical care background who works in administration in Manhattan. My blog is This Nurse Wonders. I also blog for Off the Charts and Healthcetera, and tweet as @ajandersonrn.

Comments are moderated before approval, but always welcome.

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