Howard Catton: Changing how the world's policymakers view us will help Nursing Now campaign meet its important aims

There is plenty of hard evidence to back the case for investment in nurses 

There is plenty of hard evidence to back the case for investment in nurses 

The Nursing Now campaign marks a unique moment in nursing history. The launch events in February captured the passion and energy of what nursing is and can be, with the social media tide that swept around the world creating a huge buzz.

The priorities of Nursing Now align very closely with those of the International Council of Nurses (ICN). This is why, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), we are formally collaborating with the campaign. 

With the patronage of the Duchess of Cambridge and leadership of former NHS chief executive Lord Nigel Crisp, the campaign has established a powerful platform to advance the nursing profession. 

We need to change political thinking

But some are quite rightly asking what comes next, and what will be different in three years’ time. We need to raise awareness and recognition of our profession, but to deliver change we need to mobilise nursing and alter political thinking.

Due to the rising burden of chronic diseases, ageing populations and emerging factors such as climate change and migration, countries across the world face huge and common challenges in providing healthcare to their people. Health systems are under strain and resources are limited because of faltering economic growth. 

There are approximately 20 million nurses worldwide. We make up half the global healthcare workforce and provide around 80% of primary care. In many countries, it is nurses who are already are at the forefront of meeting these challenges. 

By leading new models of care and innovations in practice, taking on extended roles and being the lynchpin in effective health teams, the nursing profession is delivering quality, cost-effective and accessible healthcare. 

Nursing Now and the ICN are already working to collate and disseminate case studies of nursing practice, with this year’s International Nurses Day publication Nurses: A Voice to Lead packed full of these. 

Nurses in policy-making roles are essential 

This work will continue over the course of the campaign to provide hard evidence to showcase, make and support the case for investment in nursing. But this also requires influential leaders inside health systems. 

Securing seats for nurses at top policy and political decision-making tables, and supporting the development of nursing leadership, is central to ICN’s mission and vision. 

The appointment of the WHO’s chief nurse is a hugely significant development, and an example to countries that do not have such a position. 

Nursing Now has set a target for 75% of countries to have a chief nursing officer. ICN is mapping the current state of play and will be tracking progress over the next three years. 

ICN’s leadership development programmes help to support the pipeline of future leaders, and we are committed to growing these. Building a community of nurses who have been through these programmes, and supporting them to stay connected with each other and across countries and continents, is another way to build a global movement of nurse champions. 

The ICN and WHO are hosting a major meeting in Geneva later this month for chief nursing and midwifery officers, national nursing associations and regulators. 

‘Investment in the health workforce and in healthcare are two sides of same the coin’

Nursing Now is firmly on the agenda, along with major WHO work programmes in areas including non-communicable diseases and primary healthcare. ICN will also be publishing new data on nurses’ pay, and providing updates on our work to seek improvements in working environments and conditions. 

This underlines the point that investment in the health workforce and in healthcare are two sides of same the coin, and a communiqué will be issued following this meeting on the eve of the World Health Assembly (WHA). 

Health ministers and delegations from countries around the world will hear a powerful global nursing voice as they arrive in Switzerland, and the ICN delegation attending the WHA will continue the dialogue over the course of the assembly. 

Passion, power and politics will all remain central to a campaign that we are determined will deliver real progress for nurses, and the health of the people they care for across the world.  

Further information

Howard Catton is director, nursing and health policy, International Council of Nurses

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