NEW YORK NURSE: July/August 2009
by Linda O’Brien, MS, RN, President, NYSNA
On July 1, I attended the opening ceremony at the International Council of Nurses (ICN) 24th Quadrennial Congress, along with more than 5,000 nurses from all over the world.
The Congress was held in Durban, South Africa, and it was an inspiring and uplifting experience as the African nurses came into the convention center in their native dress and spontaneously entertained us with their energetic songs. The nurses from Denmark sported bright red shirts with “Proud to be a Nurse” emblazoned in white across the front. Korean and Japanese nurses also wore native costumes and the Australians proudly announced that the next Congress will be held on their turf in Melbourne in 2013.
Equally inspiring was the keynote address from Festus G. Mogae, former president of Botswana, who acknowledged the leadership of nurses in his country in setting the agenda for improving the healthcare system.
More than 200 educational sessions and symposiums were held over the next five days, ranging from disaster response to technology and informatics. Research, patient advocacy, and the struggle to improve workplace conditions emerged as common themes throughout the nursing world. Nurses from some countries spoke of deaths related to poor working conditions for nurses, while others talked about increased numbers of nurses with advanced education and the influence of nurses in developing healthcare policy.
Our own Karen Ballard spoke on “Health Care Without Harm” and Renée Gescedi presented a poster on the NYSNA Preceptor Train-the-Trainer Program.
I was privileged to attend an event sponsored by the Florence Nightingale International Foundation and learned about its Girl Child Education Fund. This fund was established to provide schooling for orphaned children of nurses in developing countries. A young woman from Swaziland told how she was able to complete her high school education and was planning on following in her mother’s footsteps to become a professional nurse.
Rosemary Bryant from Australia, the newly elected president of ICN, chose the word “access” as the key word in her acceptance speech. She expanded on the word beyond patients’ access to care to include nurses’ access to influence in developing health policy at all levels of government, to higher education, to improved working conditions, and to research grants aimed at improving professional practice and patient care.
It was both awesome and humbling to hear first-hand about what nurses are doing throughout the world to improve their workplaces and advocate for patients. It was unforgettable to experience the energy, enthusiasm, and professional pride of nurses from 128 nations.
I hope that NYSNA members will bring the same enthusiasm and energy to our 2009 Convention in Saratoga Springs on Oct 8-11. Let’s respectfully debate our various points of view and then collaborate to determine the best direction for NYSNA as it continues to advocate for patients and advance the profession.