I’ve spent the last two days representing the UK’s nursing profession at the General Assembly of the European Federation of Nurses Associations. I can hardly think of a better week for nursing to show the benefits of collaborating on the world stage and how the UK can successful play its part internationally.
It might be the 110th General Assembly for EFN, but only my second time and I’ve been joined in Greece by the RCN’s President, Professor Anne Marie Rafferty.
The event is a forum for the 36 nursing association members from across Europe and convenes twice a year. I’ve really found it a vital opportunity to work collaboratively on the issues that matter the most to our profession and share the UK nursing experience, challenges and learning with European nursing colleagues. It’s also where we collaborate and learn from one another on our national and common international issues.
This is increasingly important in the context of Brexit. We haven’t forgotten that health does not respect borders and neither should our nursing expertise. Whatever the outcome of Brexit, the UK will always be part of Europe – you can’t move our location.
At the event, we discussed EFN plans for lobbying the European Union and World Health Organisation (WHO) on nursing issues for the remainder of 2019 and throughout 2020.
We’ve opened discussions with about the development of the EFN’s next lobbying strategy 2021 – 2027. This included thinking about what our vision is for the future and which challenges we will want to focus on.
We heard about the nursing shortages in other European countries and discussed what we can collectively do to change this so that the impact on patient safety is understood. This is critically important as we campaign on staffing lessons at home in the UK – that nurses have to raise the alarm in ways that will gain the attention of politicians and the public. And if our contribution to healthcare is ever in doubt, we need to be able to clearly show the wealth of our work and impact.
Next year is the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife and EFN, as well as all our partners, is ready to mark that moment and feed into the WHO’s first State Of The World’s Nursing Report due in April 2020.
The statements from the EFN this week on nurses’ digital skills show the urgent need to upskill us all and reduce the current gap between advances in digital technology and their effective use in integrated care, especially for patients with multiple conditions – and we crucially said that nurses and patients must be involved in their development.
Finally, we discussed the importance of nurses being equipped with best practice in patient-centred, pain management. The RCN endorsed the EFN pain management strategy because empowering nurses to be able to recognise, assess and treat pain is essential to providing comprehensive care.
I cannot overstate the importance the RCN places on influencing and driving nursing policy and practice at a European level. For that reason, I stood and was elected for one of the two Executive Committee Member posts of the EFN. I am honoured that I can continue to robustly represent the interests of the UK nursing community alongside our fellow national nursing associations at the European level.
I also wish to congratulate Philomena Ní Sheaghdha of the Irish Nursing and Midwives Organisation, who has been elected to the second Executive post, and to Yves Mengal of the National Federation of Belgian Nurses who has been re-elected as Treasurer.
I have public interest at the heart of everything I do and am a tenacious individual. I am confident and passionate about working collaboratively with people from all walks of life and this new position will help me to further the RCN’s impact internationally to achieve best outcomes for nursing and the patients we serve, globally.