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Nurses speak out on international stage

ACN president Kathy Baker and CEO Kylie Ward with
Photo: ACN president Kathy Baker and CEO Kylie Ward with Dr Frances Hughes
Nurses have a strong voice on the world stage for addressing global health issues such as violence, antimicrobial resistance, promoting the health of migrants, and healthy ageing, says Australian College of Nursing (ACN) CEO Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward.

Adjunct Professor Ward recently joined a contingent of Australian and New Zealand nurses, midwives and health leaders, including ACN president Kathy Baker, former New Zealand Chief Nurse and new ICN CEO Dr Frances Hughes and Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Adjunct Professor Debra Thoms, attending a series of International Council of Nurses’ (ICN) meetings and the 69th session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) held in Geneva, Switzerland.

ICN, a federation of more than 130 national nursing associations including ACN and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), joined the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to host the sixth Triad meeting.
The meeting focused on the future of the nursing and midwifery workforces with HRH Princess Muna al Hussein of Jordan launching the WHO global strategic directions for strengthening nursing and midwifery from 2016-2020.

The ICN then led a delegation of 69 participants to the WHA, the decision-making body of WHO, where it made interventions and statements including the first Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Healthy Ageing and the Draft Global Plan of Action on Violence.

Adjunct Professor Ward said the events showed nurses, as the world’s largest health profession with an estimated 16 million nurses, have a voice in high-level decision-making and policy development that influences the world stage.

“Nurses should know and should understand that we have a voice, we have a strong voice and united our voice is very powerful and that’s what we saw…nursing was very prominent in this World Health Assembly,” she said.

“We need to be at the table, we need to be present and we need to make our voice heard about what we need as a profession for the betterment of the community.”

Speaking on the Draft Global Plan of Action on Violence, ICN highlighted the leading role that nurses play in tackling violence as the first point of care for elder abuse, partner violence, conflict, post-conflict and humanitarian settings.

The action plan calls for better access to quality health care through eradicating discrimination and violence in health workplaces, patient-centred and gender sensitive services, and the promotion of human rights.

Adjunct Professor Ward said nurses can protect and advocate for children and vulnerable people, whether they are in the acute, aged care or primary setting.

“We are at the interface with vulnerable populations - with Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander populations, with diversity, whether that’s with refugees or with homeless, so nurses will be in environments where we can educate and advocate,” she said.

“There needs to be a significant amount of support and investment in providing the training for nurses to have the skills to do that.

“The other part that is really important is that nurses are people too and in relationships and situations, and all governments should be doing a lot more to make sure that nurses, who are predominantly women, are in situations where they also get support.”

Adjunct Professor Ward said the events also shone the spotlight on the impact of climate change, communicable diseases and also non-communicable diseases, such as obesity.

The events also focused on health migration, with migration doubling for OECD countries in the past 10 years and projected to double again in the next decade, and workforce planning amid an increasing global demand for health sector jobs.

“For me, it was a completely humbling experience and a learning opportunity, and about understanding what we can do in Australia to bring the world closer to us,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.

“What really filled my heart and was really special was actually just having so many nurses from so many countries, and really understanding that fundamentally with all of our challenges and with everything that we’ve got going on, that nursing is one of those professions that can take you all around the world and give you opportunities.

“I would urge any young person considering a career to definitely consider nursing as a career that has global opportunities, has broad opportunities outside of what we may be socialised to understand around a bed-based model.

“You can influence the policy level and with patients - there’s so many opportunities to make a difference, and to be in a room with hundreds of other nurses as leaders from around the globe was quite powerful actually.”

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords