NEW YORK NURSE: June 2011
by Karen A. Ballard, MA, RN, FAAN, President
The International Council of Nurses Conference, with its theme of Nurses Driving Access, Quality and Health, brought more than 2,500 professional nurses to the Mediterranean country of Malta this May. The conference was held in the island’s Mediterranean Conference Center, an amazing renovation of a 16th century medieval hospital overlooking the breathtaking Grand Harbor. Nurses attending the conference moved along the marble hallways and staircases into meeting rooms with vaulted ceilings and siege-width walls as echoes of knights, stricken soldiers and nurses from long ago whispered to us. It was both inspiring and humbling.
The conference began on a somber note as we discovered that our colleagues from some African and Middle Eastern countries were unable to join us due to visa issues related to their countries’ current political difficulties and/or relationships with Malta, one of the nations accepting refugees from the political upheavals in these geographic areas. So, once again, an International Council of Nurses (ICN) meeting reminds me of the forces that can impact upon us as nurses and world citizens. On the other hand, I was overjoyed to see our Japanese nursing colleagues in attendance – another triumph over adversity!
The meetings were inspiring as nurses shared their often similar and sometimes dissimilar concerns about nursing practice, education, ethics, research, evidenced-based practice and the impact of socio-political forces on themselves as nurses, their patients and health care in their countries. I had the opportunity to moderate a panel on Nursing Ethics and Human Rights where nurses from Canada, Sweden, Portugal and Cyprus shared concerns about the impact of core values, mutual respect, discrimination due to health conditions and ethical conflicts within hospitals. I was especially thrilled when, at a session on Climate and the Environment being presented by Anna Gilmore Hall, RN, CAE, of Practice Greenhealth, a South African attendee commented that a similar session in Durban in 2009 changed her professional and personal lives as she now strives to mitigate the impact of the healthcare industry on people’s health and the environment.
NYSNA’s Deputy Executive Officer Deborah Elliott (see additional coverage in this issue) attended ICN with me. Among other activities, we attended the Florence Nightingale International Foundation Fundraising (FNIF) Luncheon in support of the ICN’s Girl Child Education Fund, which provides for the primary and secondary schooling of the orphaned daughters of nurses in developing countries, paying for school fees, uniforms, shoes, and books. At each of our seats was the new Florence Nightingale Bear, wearing a replica of the blue and white uniform worn by the original “Nightingale nurses” and carrying a replica of the famous lamp. If you are interested in supporting this initiative, you can visit www.gcefbear.com.
We are grateful to the friendly Maltese nurses who advised us regarding their healthcare system and places to shop and eat. Other highlights included sharing unusual foods and gelato and watching fireworks with nurse colleagues while discussing the beauty of Malta, the trials and tribulations of international travel and our shared concerns on such topics as patient and worker safety, mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers, social networking, educational requirements and the advancing epidemic of non-communicable diseases. At the FNIF Luncheon, our table companions were from Australia and made us promise to attend the 2013 ICN in Australia. I urge you all to consider doing so – you too can share in the magical spirit of the global nursing community!