The International Council of Nurses (ICN) held its 2023 Congress in Montreal from July 1 to 5, co-hosted by the Canadian Nurses Association. It marked the first in-person congress since 2019 and attracted 6,200 nurses from 145 countries.
The congress theme – Nurses together: a force for global health – was evident throughout the event with inspiring plenary sessions by global leaders. In particular, I enjoyed several panel presentations featuring leaders from different countries and two policy cafés facilitated by ICN staff. Although it was impossible to take in all the presentations, it helped to talk with other participants about sessions they had attended. A customized congress app provided the daily schedule and access to all the abstracts and e-posters; it served as a useful tool throughout the event and to review information later.
Plenary sessions focused on nursing workforce issues in the aftermath of the pandemic. I noticed greater awareness about ethical international recruitment practices and the urgency to ensure safe working environments. ICN leaders highlighted the new Charter for Change directed at government policy actions as the focus of a campaign, “Our Nurses. Our Future.” On the final day, we listened to powerful video presentations by nursing leaders living through current conflicts and disasters; we were touched by their courage in the midst of all the losses they have experienced.
The new WHO Chief Nurse, Dr. Amelia Latu Afuhaamango Tuipulotu, was an active presence throughout the congress (and I was so pleased to have had a chance to speak with her at the end!). She moderated an excellent session on the current global agenda for nursing and midwifery in the context of Universal Health Coverage and also spoke about the importance of nurses’ voices in health policy.
Personal highlights included seeing people I’ve known over the years, especially nursing leaders from other countries and Canadian friends and colleagues. As we’ve remarked to one another, the mood was somewhat sombre and we sensed the fatigue nurses have experienced from the pandemic period along with global conflicts and humanitarian disasters. Some of the usual excitement found in these gatherings was missing although many attendees were enthusiastic about the opportunity to be together in Montreal. I especially enjoyed hearing impressions from first-time participants.
Social media provided a glimpse into participants’ reactions to sessions and meetings throughout the congress. It gave us a sense of what was happening and who was attending; I made some new social media connections too! The ICN team sent out a daily summary each evening and used the app to notify participants of the next day’s sessions. The entire event required comprehensive planning and communication. Thank you to all the board members and staff of ICN and CNA for your leadership, along with many nurses who served on committees. The on-site volunteers – visible in their red shirts – were a great help to participants throughout the five days.
At the closing ceremony, a new ICN logo was launched – now featured on the revamped website. Visit the ICN Website for summaries of the congress and informative items about pre-congress meetings including the Student Assembly and the Council of National Representatives. During the closing ceremony, the Finnish Nurses Association issued a lovely invitation to the next ICN Congress to be held in Helsinki in June 2025. Please see this summary of the closing session: ICN Congress in Montreal closes with inspiring ceremony and the launch of its new visual image and logo | ICN – International Council of Nurses
By Nora Whyte – July 26, 2023
Updated: July 30, 2023
Thanks to Renata Mares for her kindness in sharing her photos of ICN volunteers and for giving me permission to use them in this post.
I acknowledge with respect that I live and work on the Unceded traditional territory of the K’òmoks First Nation.