Bringing the International Council of Nurses to Our Nursing Programs

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The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is an important organization for nurse educators to recognize and embrace. As part of its programming, the ICN meets in full strength every other summer for an international dialogue. The experience of sharing stories with nurses worldwide is inspiring and also humbling.
This summer’s meeting in Barcelona was no different. Nurses from Holland described autonomous teams of 12 nurses managing neighborhoods of 5,000 to 12,000 people, and New Zealand nurses told how they are prepared as generalists to handle mental health and addiction issues. Italian leaders told of their concerns about the impact of missed nursing care, whereas nurse leaders from Wales spoke of the challenges of implementing a triangulated method of assuring “sufficient” nurses to meet new national “sufficiency” standards.
These and many more discussions took place against the backdrop of a compelling presentation by Dr. Linda Aiken, who summarized data from 30 nations about nurse-to-patient ratios. Worldwide, using the same protocols for analysis, a reduction in the RN workforce is linked to rising mortality.
For participants, a significant takeaway is how the work of nurses fits within the framework of international change. The United Nations (UN) closed its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in 2015 and introduced 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) a year later World Health Organization (WHO, Dec. 12, 2016). The UN noted limitations of the MDG, including “verticalization of health and disease programs and a lack of strengthening health systems,” but also noted a positive impact resulting from the development of data systems that allow the monitoring of health indicators in many countries. Health is captured in many ways within the 17 sustainable goals of the SDG, but there is one overarching goal: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Another development discussed at the ICN Congress concerns the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health, members of both houses of Parliament in the United Kingdom but not an official branch of Parliament. Through the support of the All-Party Group, important issues achieve international visibility. That is exactly what happened with the October 2016 report “Triple Impact,” which states that the development of nursing has a significant impact that transcends health care with its critical impact on gender equity and economic growth WHO, Oct. 17, 2016.
Including nursing as central to health policy is essential and involves education, the employment of nurses to their full potential, and the development of nurse leaders. The All-Party Group supports significant global collaboration. Its chair, Lord Nigel Crisp, announced at the ICN Congress that the group will be coming forward with new initiatives in concert with the work of ICN, further engaging us all.
As nurses in the United States continue to absorb the implications of the 2011 Institute of Medicine Future of Nursing report and act on its recommendations, it is important to reach beyond our borders and work with the ICN, which has launched a new campaign: A Voice to Lead. The campaign will help nurses realize the many ways that we can lead, from our individual efforts to work across disciplines and across venues, even in conflict zones. With a beautiful new website (www.icnvoicetolead.com), the campaign presents case studies of nurse leadership from around the world, of nurses making a difference and advancing health.
So, what are the implications for nurse educators? I looked again at the National League for Nursing’s latest vision statement on expanding nursing education for global health engagement (NLN, 2017).

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