Tuesday, 21 May 2013

International Council of Nurses - conference musings

I am currently attending the International Council of Nurses 25th Quadrennial Congress in Melbourne (yes, I know how lucky I am). I attended the opening ceremony - a time for all countries represented in the ICN to be recognised. The ceremony really brought home to me the fact that the RCN has chosen to leave the ICN. While I appreciate the reasons, I have been reflecting on the need for nursing to engage in the global context for the benefit of the profession, of nursing education and practice, and for the continued development of patient care. There are many ways to engage globally - through international organisations such as the ICN, through networking with professionals - conferencing, study tours, SoMe, etc. 

The opportunity to spend time at this conference is one that I take seriously - like everyone else attending, I am continually thinking about how the learning and the interactions with colleagues have the potential to impact positively on my own practice in nursing education. So far, these are some of the ways that I can relate the learning to my own practice:

* Confirmed my view that education around leadership - applied to the context in which the student operates - can enhance patient care through the further development of teams, personal skills, and self-awareness. I am working with colleagues on the development of a leadership course for practitioners, and I will take home some of the approaches that I have seen here to complement our thinking so far.

* Hearing an inspirational leader such as Leslie Mancuso from Jhpiego passionately convey messages about how nurses are doing amazing work as advocates for women in developing countries leads me to think about how some of that passion can be better conveyed to our students. Providing examples about how nurses can make a difference to (in this case) women's health (and the lives of their families and communities) could be one way to bring to life the extraordinary work that is going on. The key word for me when I heard Leslie speak was 'compassion' - without compassion none of these activities would be taking place.

* There is a need to enhance the international/global perspectives in nursing within our education - helping students to really appreciate the global challenges, how our health context differs (and shares similarities) with other countries. Lots of different ways to do this through sharing of stories, visits to contribute in some way to the 'other' organisation or context, etc.

* Is there a need to help students to be better social activists with greater political awareness? I have been very interested in some of the presentations where nurses have demonstrated commitment to advocating for others - usually in very challenging situations. Are our students politically astute? Do they need to be? I would suggest that with the increasing politicalisation of nursing, it is vital to have skills that enables the profession to have grown-up conversations with policy makers, the public and others with a vested interest in the profession.

* The growing use and impact of SoMe on the nursing profession - through blogging, Tweeting etc - providing more access to resources, creating connections across the globe, enabling debate and the sharing of practice. Are we preparing our students for this virtual world?

These are some early thoughts - lots to digest and form views on. Like many others here I have formed new connections, planned other meetings and gained collaborative writing opportunities - broadened my horizons!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

International Nurses' Day

Celebrating IND is important for the profession and for raising further awareness more widely about the roles that nurses play in healthcare. I have had a perfect couple of weeks - allowing me to reflect positively on all things nursing.

Firstly, I attended the Student Nursing Times Awards where I was privileged to present the award for partnerships and where I watched the inspiring students, practitioners and lecturers celebrate their successes. What was evident was the focus on compassion, the focus on the patient, and the focus on the student as a learner. When we hear the negative publicity surrounding nursing, it is good to take the opportunity to surround oneself with the most positive and most compassionate of people. I really will need to make sure that I am there next year so that I can celebrate others' success again!

My second experience was at Westminster Abbey to celebrate the life of  Florence Nightingale. I was able to attend as a previous leadership scholar with good friends that I have made through that maxing experience. What I saw were nurses from all walks of life proudly walking into Westminster Abbey to celebrate both Nightingale's life, and the work that nurses do on a daily basis - their work and that of others. I was caught off-guard when Jeremy Hunt walked into the Abbey to take part in the service, but encouraged to hear the voice of nursing in the address telling it like it is - look at staff ratios, reduce the paperwork etc....... I sincerely hope that Hunt was listening!

All of these points of contact with the nurses who inspire us all grounds me in the knowledge of the fantastic practice that goes on. What I do know though is that we all need to keep doing better. I believe that we need to persistently ensure that our voice is heard at policy/government level in ways that help the politicians to truly understand what it is we do everyday. I think that we can do this constructively without being defensive - and I think this because I have never heard any of these brilliant nurses that I
was referring to say anything other than that they want to continually improve the experiences of patients. One final event that I attended really made me think about my own experiences of nursing and how these relate to the debates that go on about compassion in nursing - I may write more about my personal thoughts as I am still reflecting! Professor Jill Maben presented her inaugural professorial lecture where she talked about her personal nursing journey and the research that she has done around compassion. What she has clearly demonstrated is that it is the environment, culture and other staffing issues that are most important in a nurse's expression of compassion in practice - those who work in cultures that allow them to enact their ideals are most likely to deliver compassionate care all the time.

So I finish by saying happy International Nurses' Day to all of you who are working in practice, educating students, and engaging in compassionate care in so many different ways. Let's all resolve to get our voices heard in constructive evidence-based ways that allow the discussions on compassion, values etc to evolve in ways that will make long-term differences to patient care and to the environments that nurses work in,