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Front-line nurses must be agents of change, say nursing leaders

Conference speakers urge nurses to help lead change in public health.
Susan Hamer

Nurses must use their roles to help lead change in public health, senior nursing leaders have urged.

At the RCN International Centenary Conference in London this week, nurses heard from a variety of influential keynote speakers.

C3 Collaborating for Health charity director Christine Hancock, who was RCN general secretary from 1989 to 2001, said nurses were ideally placed to influence disease prevention.

We can prevent so much of the burden [of chronic disease] by doing such simple things, she said.

Nurses can lead this by making every contact with the general public count.

Promoting good health

Ms Hancock said ending tobacco use, promoting healthy eating and drinking, and increasing physical activity, could prevent four major

Nurses must use their roles to help lead change in public health, senior nursing leaders have urged.


Susan Hamer told conference delegates that nurses must record high quality patient data.

At the RCN International Centenary Conference in London this week, nurses heard from a variety of influential keynote speakers.

C3 Collaborating for Health charity director Christine Hancock, who was RCN general secretary from 1989 to 2001, said nurses were ideally placed to influence disease prevention.

‘We can prevent so much of the burden [of chronic disease] by doing such simple things,’ she said.

‘Nurses can lead this by making every contact with the general public count.’

Promoting good health

Ms Hancock said ending tobacco use, promoting healthy eating and drinking, and increasing physical activity, could prevent four major non-communicable diseases:

  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Many cancers.
  • Chronic lung disease.

Ms Hancock quoted former World Health Organization director general Halfdan Mahler who, in 1985, proposed that nurses should be agents of change.

Dr Mahler said: ‘If millions of nurses in a thousand different places articulated the same ideas and convictions and come together as one force, they could act as a powerhouse for change.’

Vital role

International Council of Nurses (ICN) chief executive Frances Hughes told the conference that nurses play an important role in improving global health outcomes. 

‘There is a need for nurses to take on a substantial role in the system as navigators and guides,’ Dr Hughes said.

‘We need nurses at a level of advocacy, and the ICN has been vocal in ensuring our voices are heard around the world.’

High quality data

National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network director of nursing, learning and organisational development Susan Hamer urged all nurses to ensure patient data was recorded accurately.

Dr Hamer said: ‘Every front-line nurse has to take responsibility for inputting high quality data, understanding that it will be used in the future.’

She also urged nurses to contribute to research studies in their organisations or through other routes.


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