What a pleasure it was to be among 8,200 nurses from 135 countries who participated in the International Council of Nurses 2017 Congress in Barcelona in May! Hosted by the Spanish General Council of Nursing, this congress with its timely theme – Nurses at the Forefront Transforming Care – lived up to all expectations with stimulating plenary speakers, concurrent sessions and highly engaged nurses from around the globe.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) served as a guiding framework with emphasis on nurses as key to achieving the goals. Plenary presentations had a common theme of policy advocacy for health system change and sessions provided informative examples of national nursing associations contributing to positive change in their countries.
Plenary speakers included Dr. Linda Aiken and Dr. Mary Wakefield from the US, Dr. Julia Duncan-Cassell from Liberia and Lord Nigel Crisp from the UK. In her keynote on Safe Staffing to Transform Care, Linda Aiken presented highlights from her research in 30 countries to show how evidence-based staffing make a difference to patient outcomes. Each 10% decrease in the proportion of RNs in hospitals is associated with a 12% increase in risk of mortality. She noted that there is “plenty of evidence to convince governments to invest in nursing” but that safe staffing remains an issue.
Lord Nigel Crisp of the UK House of Lords and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health (APPG) spoke about the work of the APPG in developing its 2016 Triple Impact Report:
Increasing the number of nurses, and developing nursing so that nurses can achieve their potential, will also have a wider triple impact of improving health, promoting gender equality and supporting economic growth (APPG, p.3).
The presence of nursing students during the congress was impressive: Spanish students were active as volunteers and other students brought their perspectives to sessions where they asked great questions. It was exciting to hear about the inaugural meeting of the Global Association of Student and Novice Nurses held in conjunction with the congress.
On a personal level, it was particularly meaningful to meet nurse leaders from around the globe including some members of the ICN Board of Directors. There were messages of thanks to outgoing president Judith Shamian and words of welcome to the incoming Board of Directors and new president Annette Kennedy who brings great experience and enthusiasm to her new role. ICN presidents have a tradition of selecting a “watchword” to guide their term – Annette Kennedy announced her watchword Together as highlighted in this excerpt from her acceptance speech:
Together we can ensure that we have a voice at every committee and policy table related to health care. Together we can encourage investment in primary care, health promotion and disease prevention and together we can provide that care. Together we can convince the public and policy makers that investing in health is an investment in our people and our economy. Together we can seek better working conditions for all nurses. Together we can realise our collective potential to make the world a healthier place for everyone. (ICN Press Information, June 2, 2017).
Looking to the future, ICN’s Voice to Lead campaign launched for International Nurses Day this year, will continue as a dynamic resource as ICN strengthens its social media and furthers its work on the SDGs.
The entire congress experience – with opportunities for stimulating exchange of ideas and meeting nurses from many countries – was worthwhile in every way. To cap it off, I enjoyed extra days exploring the beautiful city of Barcelona!