There have only been a very few times when a policy document has led me to feel inspired.
The first time was when I read a paper written by Helen Bevan ‘The new era of thinking and practice in change and transformation: a call to action for leaders of health and care’. This paper led me to feel connected to others and to realise that I'm not alone in wanting to change the world of health and care to improve the outcomes for our patients.
Recently I attended the global launch of the Nursing Now! campaign. I listened to so many inspiring nurses, all of whom are keen to demonstrate the difference that nursing can make to the health and well-being of their countries. At the event, key aims were set out for the campaign:-
- As the health professionals closest to the public, nurses should be empowered to use their knowledge, skills and expertise to the full. They should be valued and respected for their pivotal role at the heart of most health teams.
- Nurses should be supported to drive health promotion, disease prevention and treatment, through leveraging new technology, greater patient participation and an increasing focus on community and primary care.
- Health decision-making needs nurses to be more involved. Their role in policy development and planning is too small, despite the invaluable insights that their unique position in the health system gives them.
- Health leaders globally should develop new models of care that maximise nursing’s contributions to achieving Universal Health Coverage and other health goals.
- Governments should invest in improving nurses’ working conditions, training and leadership skills to enhance health, empower women and strengthen local economies.
The overwhelming message that has stuck with me is that nursing is the heartbeat of all healthcare systems and we have the ability to lead change of global economic growth. This was also laid out in a document by the International Council of Nurses, ‘Nurses a Voice to Lead; Health is a Human Right’. As I read this, I found myself being inspired by another policy document. This one connected with my core value in nursing, which is to make a difference to the health and well-being of my community.
The positive messages in this document remind me of the importance of nurses and midwives being involved in national policy making:
More than any other health speciality, nurses spend the most time with patients and their families and have firsthand knowledge of the stories that have an impact on the health and well-being of patients.
Everyone has a story and every story has the potential to improve the health system and enable individuals and communities to achieve their highest attainable standard of health. From these insights comes the power for change. Policy makers are distanced from the requirements that make an effective and people-centred health system; to them it is peripheral. To nurses, it is the daily lived experience. The right to the highest attainable standard of health requires nursing insight to challenge how the system works and how it can be improved’ (page 11).
What could be a stronger message to the next generation of nurses than this? Nurses can lead, and gain a voice global, as we make a difference to the lives of others.
The International Council of Nurses (ICN) believes that health is a human right. ICN is at the forefront of advocating for access to health and nurses are the key to delivering it. All over the world, there are individuals and communities who are suffering from illness due to a lack of accessible and affordable health care. But we must also remember that the right to health applies to nurses as well! We know that improved quality and safety for patients depends on positive working environments for staff. That means the right to a safe working environment, adequate remuneration, and access to resources, and education. We must add to this the right to be heard and have a voice in decision making and policy development implementation!