As one of the RCN’s advisory committees, the International Committee exists to provide expert advice to RCN Council on issues that affect nurses and nursing around the world. Among its key purposes is providing an international dimension to the RCN’s strategic priorities.
The Committee is also in place to share knowledge of wider developments from outside the UK, which may impact both the organisation and nursing, such as he United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and efforts to achieve universal health coverage and key activities by the World Health Organization.
The Committee has eight members, chosen via an appointments process and meets three times a year, with additional telephone conference and briefings as needed.
“Nursing and health are global issues,” says committee member Jason Warriner. “Over the last 18 months or so of the pandemic, we’ve witnessed the importance of the need to work globally. We’re fortunate in having many links through our professional forums and European groups. Now we need to tap into those networks, supporting and learning from each other, both to carry on tackling the impact of the current pandemic and preparing for similar events in the future.”
It’s also not just about sharing our knowledge with other countries. “We can learn from them too - it’s very much a two-way process,” says Jason. “I’ve worked with nurses from across the globe and have gained so much from them. They are eager to share.”
I’ve worked with nurses from across the globe and have gained so much from them
The RCN is a member of European and international networks such as the European Federation of Nurses Associations; the European Federation of Public Services Unions; the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation; the European Public Health Alliance; the International Confederation of Midwives; and the European Forum of Nursing and Midwifery Association.
These critical alliances provide an important mechanism to strengthen nursing leadership globally, as well as nationally, by creating space to explore and address issues that are important to the profession no matter where you practise, such as advanced nursing practice, vaccination efforts and the gender pay gap - to name just a few.
Aims and priorites
At the RCN's Annual General Meeting (AGM) in May, members voted to re-join the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and this process is progressing. “We’re very much looking forward to playing our part in the future,” says Jason.
Another priority is the Professional Qualifications Bill, introduced in the House of Lords in May 2021. The bill will replace previous legislation that allowed professionals to move freely between EU member states, which applied until the UK left the EU in 2020. While the next stages of this legislation have yet to be timetabled, there are a range of issues which the RCN needs to see resolved.
“We need credible legislation in place so we can maintain a skilled workforce,” says Jason. “If we want the best health care, qualifications can't become a bargaining tool or we risk jeopardising patient safety.”
Nurses from all over the world are a key part of our workforce
Other key opportunities include how the RCN strengthens international relationships wth other nursing associations across the world; discussing the international challenges of recruiting and retaining nursing staff; safer staffing and what is being done globally to achieve that goal; and being able to share innovation and leadership across the nursing workforce as a truly global profession.
“We also need to focus on internationally recruited nurses and black and minority ethnic communities,” says Jason. “We have nurses from all over the world working in the UK and they are a key part of our workforce. Where would we be without them? We need to look at how we support them throughout. This starts from when they’re first recruited, making sure that it’s done ethically, to ensuring we properly value the skills and knowledge they bring.”