Global nursing campaign aims to empower nurses to maximise influence

Emeritus Professor Jill White

Nursing Now, a landmark three-year global campaign aiming to improve health and lift the profile of nursing, launched back in February at events in London and Geneva.

Backed by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and World Health Organization (WHO), the campaign will run until the end of 2020 to mark the 200th anniversary of nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale’s birth.

Prominent ambassadors include The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, selected as the UK’s official patron due to her family lineage of nurses.

Nursing Now is fundamentally striving to raise the status and profile of nursing so the profession can work to its full scope and help drive universal health coverage.

It evolved from a global nursing review undertaken by the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health that produced a report in 2016 titled Triple Impact, which argued strengthening nursing would trigger a threefold effect – improving health, promoting gender equality and supporting economic development.

Nursing Now’s goals include achieving greater investment in all aspects of nursing and midwifery, promoting innovative practice in nursing, boosting the influence of nurses and midwives on global and national health policy and ensuring more nurses step into leadership positions.

As the Nursing Now Campaign Board member for the WHO’s Western Pacific Region, distinguished nursing leader Emeritus Professor Jill White will spearhead Australia’s contribution to the campaign.

After canvassing the preliminary views of nursing groups across the country, Professor White said Australia’s involvement in the campaign would see it push for greater access to healthcare.

“For me, what underpins universal health coverage is good access,” Professor White explained.

“That’s what I’ll be pushing for Australia to pick up on, that notion of access. Because if you talk to a politician in Australia about universal health coverage, quite reasonably they would say ‘We’ve got Medicare’. And we do and it’s a brilliant safety net and we’re so lucky to have it but if you talk to someone in a rural community, or with a mental health problem, whilst they may have financial coverage they don’t have access.”

Professor White acknowledged the Triple Impact report exposed accurate insights regarding the lack of knowledge about what nursing is and what the profession actually does.

While she believes Nursing Now can help the profession forge a powerful voice, she stressed it was critical to avoid the campaign being interpreted as nursing self-interest and important to ensure the core goal of better patient care and access remains central.

“It’s always about better healthcare for people. If we don’t have the right number of nurses and we don’t have nurses in the right jobs and we don’t have nurses paid appropriately and we don’t have the right number in the right place, doing the right thing, and educating the right way, we will not have the optimal health for our populations.”

In this vein, one of Nursing Now’s core goals focuses on seeing more nurses enter leadership positions and increased development opportunities so that the profession can have greater influence.

Professor White agrees with the objective but suggests the term leadership is often misunderstood.

“Often leadership positions are actually about making the hospital environment work more effectively and efficiently. For me, that sometimes is akin to making the inmates happier in the jail.

“What I think is really missing is for nursing to understand the context of health decision-making and policymaking and the real leadership we need is a very broad understanding by nurses at every level about the context in which they work, how decisions are made and how they can have better influence.”

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