Talking Nursing in Many Languages: Reporting on the International Council of Nurses

Shawn Kennedy and Amanda Anderson

AJN’s editor in chief Shawn Kennedy and editorial board member and contributing editor Amanda Anderson recently attended the ICN Council of Nurse Representatives and Congress in Barcelona and present the highlights here, along with podcast conversations with two nurse leaders. A full report will be available in the August issue of AJN.

The 300 or so members of the Council of Nurse Representatives (CNR, ICN’s governing body) meets just prior to the ICN Congress, the educational conference and exhibition, which drew 8,000 registrants to Barcelona, a beautiful city on the Mediterranean. It’s a wonderful meeting and collegiality is emphasized—everyone wears a name tag with name and country, no credentials or fancy titles: we’re all just nurses. Chance meetings in elevators and at break times lead to meeting for coffee and lunch, exchanging ideas and business cards.

Nurse staffing pioneer Linda Aiken receiving Christiane Reimann Prize

This year marked the end of Canadian Judith Shamian’s four-year term as ICN president. Annette Kennedy from Ireland was the unanimous choice to succeed her. Among the new ICN board members are ANA president Pam Cipriano and AJN international editorial board member Fatima Al Rifai.

Here’s some highlights from the meeting:

  • The opening plenary by Ambassador William Swing, director of the International Organization of Migration (IOM), on issues related to migration received a standing ovation. He described “a world on the move”—over 244 million people migrate in search of opportunities and 65 million flee conflicts and other intolerable conditions—and called for a rethinking of migration, not “as a problem to be solved but a new human reality we need to manage respectfully and responsibly.” He argued that policies should focus on educating citizens that migration is a new reality, increasing regulated migration to decrease irregular migration, decriminalizing migrants (evidence doesn’t support the perception that most migrants are criminals), and developing effective integration programs. The CNR is developing a position statement to provide guidance for nurses in their professional and ethical obligations in working with migrants, refugees, and displaced persons.
  • The “Nursing Now” campaign was officially launched. Similar to the Campaign for Action in the United States, the goal is to support nurses to practice to their full capabilities. It aims to hold the new WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to his promise to fully support nurses and include them on his senior staff at the WHO.
  • Linda Aiken spoke in the shadow of the vast body of evidence she has amassed about the relationship between nurse staffing and patient outcomes. Saying that she has spent the last 20 years duplicating studies in over 30 countries around the globe, she is now using evidence to show that better nurse staffing doesn’t only decrease patient mortality, it also saves more money. She was awarded the ICN’s highest international honor, the Christiane Reimann Prize.
  • Plenary presentations focused on promoting gender equality and new approaches to care in the community, from disaster preparedness to retail clinics to Buurtzorg, the Dutch neighborhood nursing model (see AJN’s 2013 article on Buurtzorg; free until June 16).
  • Leslie Mancuso, CEO of JHPIEGO, has worked for 40 years to build nurse competency to improve the health of women and families. She spoke of the need for widespread collaboration throughout the nursing profession, and repeated her coined phrase, which had traveled through the congress like wildfire all week, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, bring your own chair.”
  • Shamian and ICN CEO Frances Hughes presented reports detailing the considerable restructuring of ICN governance procedures to ensure the fiscal viability of the organization.
  • At the closing ceremony, Judith Shamian transferred the gold ICN presidential necklace to Annette Kennedy, who ended the ICN Congress by asking all to hold hands and sing the American civil rights movement song, “We shall Overcome.”

The two of us had the opportunity to chat with both Judith Shamian and Annette Kennedy (Amanda also conducted interviews—watch for her upcoming post). We asked each of them to say a few words to American nurses about ICN—listen to their short podcast messages here.

Talking with Judith Shamian:


Talking with Annette Kennedy:

Editor-in-chief, AJN

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