RCN International

Our international work

We represent UK nursing in Europe and internationally

The RCN works with UK, European and wider international alliances and stakeholders to influence health and nursing policy globally.

The Government's EU Settlement Scheme will allow EU nationals to remain in the UK after Brexit. Read more about this here

Current international issues and projects

The RCN and Brexit

In 2016, the public voted for the UK to leave the European Union in a referendum. Following consultation with our membership, a decision was taken that the RCN would be neutral on Brexit. However, we are concerned that Brexit has potentially significant ramifications for health and care services and staff, and if not resolved seriously, will impact nursing staff’s ability to provide safe and effective care. We have been campaigning on five priority areas which are the most pertinent to you. These are:

1. The impact of Brexit on workforce sustainability;
2. Maintaining robust education and professional regulatory frameworks;
3. Ensuring that we continue to address public health threats collaboratively – particularly those crossing the borders;
4. Safeguarding decent working conditions, health and safety at work and employment rights; and
5. Maintaining collaboration for research and learning across Europe.

Since the referendum, successive Conservative Party Governments have been negotiating the terms by which the UK will leave the EU. It was expected that the UK would leave the EU initially on 29 March 2019, two years after Article 50 was invoked but the previous Withdrawal Agreement was not accepted by MPs.

Following the General Election in 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson presented his EU Withdrawal Bill to Parliament. This Bill has been given Royal Assent, which means that the UK will now leave the EU on 31 January at 11pm. There will be a transition period until December 2020 and during this time the UK Government will negotiate the future relationship we will have with the EU, as well as negotiate trade agreements with other countries across the globe.

If you are an EEA citizen, you will need to register for pre-settled or settled status. More information about your rights and how to apply is available on our website here.

If you have any queries about how EU exit could impact your registration with the NMC, please visit the NMC’s website.

RCN partnership with the Zambian Union of Nurses Organisations (ZUNO)

The RCN-ZUNO Partnership Project is a collaboration between the RCN and the ZUNO, funded by THET through the DFID Health Partnerships Scheme, with the support of the Zambian Ministry of Health.

The project has focused on strengthening ZUNO as the voice of nursing in Zambia so that it can influence nursing policy and improve nursing practice, with emphasis on developing leadership and advocacy skills. The RCN has supported ZUNO to carry out work at three hospitals focusing on building multidisciplinary teamwork and communication to improve the implementation of the World Health Organisation's (WHO's) safe surgery checklist. In total, 226 nurses, porters, anaesthetists, surgeons, student nurses and nurse tutors have been trained in adapting and using the checklist, supported by ZUNO and 40 Safe Surgery Champions.

ZUNO update

Following a series of RCN-ZUNO training workshops and mentoring, 71% of participants felt there have been major improvements in teamwork while 80% of participants felt that the consistency with which their team carries out the checklist has changed and that they now do it more frequently. This has improved the reputation of ZUNO as a professional association with hospital management and other professional associations.
The RCN and ZUNO were keen to build upon the progress made in the first two-year phase by ensuring the changes made are fully sustainable and embedded in national structures and processes. Phase 2 is running from 1st April 2017 to 31st December 2018. So far ZUNO has worked with the nursing regulator and educational institutions to update the national theatre nursing curriculum. This was launched in March 2018 and now includes the WHO's Safer Surgery Checklist in peri-operative care.
ZUNO is now recognised as a provider of continuing professional development (CPD). With support from the RCN, it is developing modules covering safer surgery as well as management and leadership. These will be offered to nurses across Zambia. ZUNO's work on safer surgery in hospitals has raised their profile as a professional voice for nursing which has helped them grow their membership and benefit patients. For more information on the ZUNO project you can contact international@rcn.org.uk

Introducing the Nursing Now Campaign

The Nursing Now campaign aims to raise the status and profile of nursing globally. Run in collaboration with the WHO and the International Council of Nurses (ICN), Nursing Now seeks to empower nurses to take their place at the heart of tackling 21st Century health challenges.

Nursing Now will run to the end of 2020 – the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth . It aims to improve perceptions of nurses, enhance their influence and maximise their contributions to ensuring that everyone everywhere has access to health and healthcare. The RCN is a key backer of the campaign

Nursing Now has five key objectives:

1. Support greater investment in improving education, professional development, standards, regulation and employment conditions for nurses;

2. Increase and improve dissemination of effective and innovative practice in nursing;

3. Realise greater influence for nurses and midwives on global and national health policy, as part of broader efforts to ensure health workforces are more involved in decision-making;

4. Get more nurses into leadership positions with more opportunities for development at all levels; and

5. Generate more evidence for policy and decision makers about where nursing can have the greatest impact, what is stopping nurses from reaching their full potential and how to address this.

More information on the campaign can be accessed at: http://www.nursingnow.org/our-aims/

Working Internationally: A guide to humanitarian and development work for nurses and midwives

The RCN has collaborated with the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and VSO to produce advice for nurses and midwives who want to work internationally, both in sustainable development and humanitarian programmes. 

Download a copy of the latest guidance

Read about RCN member David Atherton's experience of volunteering abroad

RCN International Nursing Network

The International Nursing Network brings together health care practitioners interested in the field of international health care. Members of this community include registered practitioners, health care assistants, students and volunteers.

This groups enables RCN members interested in international humanitarian health care and development work to share experiences and support each other with practical advice.

Read more about the International Nursing Network

Visit the International Nursing Network Facebook group

International alliances

Contact the RCN

For more information on international issues, please contact international@rcn.org.uk