Comment

Rejoining the ICN: vote yes and you will advance nursing, here and in developing countries

COVID-19 has highlighted how much we need a strong global voice to demand better conditions

COVID-19 has highlighted how much we need a strong global voice to improve pay, conditions and the status of the profession

On 14 May, the RCN will ask its members to vote on whether it should apply to re-join the International Council of Nurses (ICN), which it left in 2013.

If we re-joined, the UK and every RCN member would once again be part of a worldwide federation of more than 130 national nurses associations, acknowledged by many as the global voice of nurses.

ICNs important role during the pandemic

This would enhance our power to drive forward change to

...

COVID-19 has highlighted how much we need a strong global voice to improve pay, conditions and the status of the profession

Members of the RCN will vote on the ICN membership issue at the college’s AGM
Members of the RCN will vote on the ICN membership issue at the college’s AGM Picture: John Houlihan

On 14 May, the RCN will ask its members to vote on whether it should apply to re-join the International Council of Nurses (ICN), which it left in 2013.

If we re-joined, the UK and every RCN member would once again be part of a worldwide federation of more than 130 national nurses’ associations, acknowledged by many as the global voice of nurses.

ICN’s important role during the pandemic

This would enhance our power to drive forward change to improve global health, advance nursing practice, learn from others and strengthen our global influence on nurses’ pay, conditions and status.

The ICN works to ensure quality nursing care for all, along with the development of health policies globally, which can only strengthen the RCN as the voice of nursing in the UK.

During the global pandemic, sharing with and learning from nurses and healthcare organisations globally has been paramount in monitoring the COVID-19 virus and how it is transmitting, developing and moving across continents.

The ICN has been at the forefront of this because it is the only nursing organisation officially recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) and so has a seat at the table.

Membership costs less than the price of a cup of coffee

Member organisations pay for their ICN membership based on the number of registered nurses in their own national nursing organisation.

For the RCN, this costs £1 a year per member – less than the price of a cup of coffee. This fee is capped, so no single organisation pays more than 10% of the ICN’s total membership dues.

‘As members we would be able to directly influence the ICN, and therefore WHO, on global nursing strategy, working conditions and health outcomes – not only in the UK but in developing countries’

In a March 2021 RCN council meeting, members were told that the college can afford this and that it should not affect individual membership fees.

The re-join recommendation was formulated by the RCN international committee after several months of discussions with the ICN and a review of its development since the RCN left in 2013.

Benefits for many nurses in the UK

So, what would RCN members get if we re-join this global organisation?

We would be able to directly influence the ICN, and therefore WHO, on shaping global nursing strategy and improving working conditions and health outcomes – not only in the UK but in many developing countries as well.

Of course, we must consider the cost, but in casting our vote we should factor in the value of membership. Let’s not forget what we in the UK could give back to the global nursing community by re-joining the ICN.

As one of the world’s richest economies, we have a social responsibility to drive forward nursing policy and practice in developing countries. Scenes during the COVID-19 pandemic in India, Brazil and other nations have shown the vast difference in global health economies and nursing practice.

What we have to offer international nursing colleagues

We need to offer our expertise and experience to international colleagues, building nursing leadership and strengthening our profession across the globe.

That way we can ensure that professional development, working terms and conditions and pay are essential parts of government agendas to support the health of their nations.

We also need to learn from colleagues who provide nursing care across the world. In the words of Foundation of Nursing Studies chair David Foster: ‘Although the UK is often seen as leading nursing, we should also recognise that we have much to understand from the rest of the world.’

Students and newly registered staff see the value of ICN membership

In the campaign group We Are Global Nurses, which has more than 8,000 followers on social media, support to re-join the ICN comes from nursing students, newly registered nurses and professionals across the nursing spectrum. Membership of the ICN is for all, no matter how junior.

Nurses are essential to the delivery of quality healthcare across the globe. We need to make sure the UK’s nursing voice is heard in the international federation as well as the WHO.

If we are members of the ICN, then we enable the wider nursing profession to have access to education, research and advanced practice, and have power and influence on the world stage.

I urge you to vote re-join.

The view from the other side: why we should not re-join the ICN

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs