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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.

Current international issues and projects

The RCN and Brexit

Following the vote on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, the RCN is calling on the Government to secure the future of EU nurses as new figures reveal the extent to which the health service relies on them. More than 33,000 EU trained nurses are registered to work in the UK, which is more than the total number of nurses currently working in Wales. It comes as research reveals the scale of challenges facing the NHS nursing workforce, with one in three nurses due to retire in the next 10 years and a lack of homegrown staff to fill the gap.

The RCN believes the Government must take urgent action to develop a coherent and sustainable workforce strategy for the future that recognises the critical contribution of overseas nurses as well as the pressing need to educate, recruit and retain homegrown nursing staff.

Read the RCN's position statement on Brexit

Read a guide for RCN members on Brexit and the implications for European Economic Area (EEA) workers, students and family members

Read the RCN's response to the Health Select Committee's Brexit inquiry

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

The RCN-ZUNO Partnership Project was initially a two-year 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 WHO 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.

Following training workshops and mentoring, 71% of participants felt there have been major improvements in teamwork since the RCN-ZUNO training, with 80% of participants feeling 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 and has benefited from a recent project visit to Zambia in July 2017 by the RCN's International Adviser and ZUNO project lead, Rachel Cooper. You can read more about her trip here, or you can contact if you would like to hear more about the project.

The Buurtzorg Nederland Community Care Model 

The Buurtzorg model has attracted significant international attention in recent years. Founded in the Netherlands in 2006, this unique community nursing programme has won acclaim for being both nurse-led and cost effective.

The RCN has developed a briefing which looks at the development and successes of the Buurtzorg model, while also identifying some of the challenges which would need to be addressed if the UK were to adopt a similar approach.

Read more about the Buurtzorg model

EFN Executive Committee

Janet Davies was elected to the European Federation of Nurses Associations Executive Committee. The election of the RCN Chief Executive means UK nursing will be represented at the most senior level in Europe.

Read more about the EFN Executive Committee

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