Advocating Globally to Shape Policy and Strengthen Nursing's Influence

Article excerpt

Abstract

The International Council of Nurses is a federation of national nursing associations that works to enable nurses to speak with one voice so as to influence health policy and advance the profession of nursing. In this article the author highlights how nurses can advocate for the nursing profession by coordinating nursing actions to develop both public and healthcare-service policies. He addresses issues that are common in many parts of the world and provides examples drawn from real-life experiences that illustrate how nurses in El Salvador, Rwanda, Paraguay, Papua New Guinea, and Iran have worked in their countries to coordinate their actions and advocate for public and/or healthcare service policies within their countries. He concludes by noting that all nurses must do their part and use a wide range of opportunities creatively, and with clarity of intent, to improve the profession and the lives of the millions of people who depend upon us.

Citation: Benton, D., (January 31, 2012) "Advocating Globally to Shape Policy and Strengthen Nursing's Influence" OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues In Nursing Vol. 17, No. 1, Manuscript 5.

DOI: 10.3912/OJIN.Vol17No01Man05

Key words: Leadership development, coordinated action, policy, advocacy, influence, change, International Council of Nurses

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) believes that nurses are key to improving access to quality and cost-effective care and to enhancing the health of populations. To this end it is essential that nurses are able to effectively influence change at local, organisational, systems, national, regional, and international levels. This is true for every country, whether the country is an industrialised or a developing nation. Every year ICN encourages its members to celebrate International Nurses Day and produces resource kits that include evidence-based materials, press ready messages, and short videos to share with nurses and the general public (ICN, 2011).

In 1999, ICN launched a global vision for the 21st Century (ICN, 2010a). The vision declared, in part, that "our mission is to lead our societies to better health" (p. 1). If nurses are to realize this vision, nurses must do more than care for patients and conduct research. They need also to be actively involved in shaping health policy. In this article I will begin by highlighting how nurses can advocate for the nursing profession by coordinating nursing actions to develop both public and healthcare-service policies. These actions include maintaining solidarity within the profession and developing strong leadership. Then I will provide examples, drawn from real-life experiences, that illustrate how nurses in El Salvador, Rwanda, Paraguay, Papua New Guinea, and Iran have coordinated actions in their own countries to advocate for public and/or healthcare service policies. I will conclude by noting that all nurses must do their part and use a wide range of opportunities creatively, and with clarity of intent, to improve the profession and the lives of the millions of people who depend upon us.

Although space does not permit a full theoretical exploration of these examples, at the heart of each example can be seen the embodiment of the change equation in action. This equation involves creating a situation where dissatisfaction with the status quo, coupled with a vision for the future and tangible first steps, can overcome the resistance that is embodied in both individuals and the system to a given change (Beckhard & Harris, 1987).

Coordinating Nursing Actions

Nurses provide essential services and are knowledgeable about client needs. They interact closely with healthcare consumers, including patients, families, and/or populations, in a wide variety of settings. This gives nurses a broad appreciation of health needs, an understanding of how factors in the environment affect the health of clients and their families, and insight into how people respond to different strategies and services. …

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