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Nurses need to learn how to influence policy, says new ICN president

Nurses must collaborate more with other professions and have a broader understanding of their countries’ political systems, says new ICN president.
Annette Kennedy

Nurses must collaborate more with other professions and have a broader understanding of their countries political systems, says the new president of the International Council of Nurses (ICN).

New International Council of Nurses president Annette Kennedy

Annette Kennedy, an Irish nurse who took up post last week, served as ICN vice-president from 2013 and was European Federation of Nurses president between 2005-07.

Speaking to Nursing Standard at the ICN congress in Barcelona in May, Ms Kennedy said she is honoured, privileged and excited about her new role.

I would like to see a lot of collaboration, not just between [different countries] nursing associations, but wider than the health professions, said Ms Kennedy.

What I would really like to see is that we influence more policy at a global level it is so important; nurses are 40% of the workforce.

Ms Kennedy, who

Nurses must collaborate more with other professions and have a broader understanding of their countries’ political systems, says the new president of the International Council of Nurses (ICN).

Annette Kennedy
New International Council of Nurses president Annette Kennedy

Annette Kennedy, an Irish nurse who took up post last week, served as ICN vice-president from 2013 and was European Federation of Nurses president between 2005-07.

Speaking to Nursing Standard at the ICN congress in Barcelona in May, Ms Kennedy said she is honoured, privileged and excited about her new role.

‘I would like to see a lot of collaboration, not just between [different countries’] nursing associations, but wider than the health professions,’ said Ms Kennedy.

‘What I would really like to see is that we influence more policy at a global level – it is so important; nurses are 40% of the workforce.’

Ms Kennedy, who has taken over from former ICN president Judith Shamian, also said she hoped more nurses would participate in influencing decisions about patient care.

‘Policy and decision makers are making decisions every day that affect patients’ lives, but are not saying this,’ she said.

‘We have to have an input for patients and the global health agenda; we should be making these decisions.

‘Nurses are 50% of the global health workforce, 365 days of the year, and they know everything about a patient: safety, condition, home life, family support structures.

‘Nobody else knows that kind of information – not policy makers, decision makers or managers – and yet we are allowing them to make decisions for nursing care.’

Power to change

Ms Kennedy added that nurses at all levels can effect change if they learn to talk about their work.

‘A nurse meets so many patients during her lifetime, [as well as] relatives, family and friends. Can you imagine the impact on all she meets if they were to talk about what she does?’

She also went on to say that action is important and many nurses do not realise the power to change things is in their hands.

‘If you want to change things at your hospital, get a group together and change things. We have a responsibility.’

Ms Kennedy said nursing education should change to ensure students meet a range of people from different professions outside healthcare.

‘We need to change our way of education. When I was in education, I brought my students to the government, or brought finance directors to talk to [my students].

‘They need to know who to influence, and they need to have a broader understanding of the political system, of civil society and their work within it.

She warned: ‘If you are not at the table, you are probably on the menu.’

ICN chief executive Frances Hughes said it was ‘a great pleasure’ to congratulate Ms Kennedy on her appointment.


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