Why I’m going to Geneva

Kai Tiaki April 2016 cover2
First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing NZ, April 2016. Reposted with permission.

THE WORLD of nursing got a wee bit smaller in February when New Zealand nurse Frances Hughes took over as chief executive (CE) of the International Council of Nurses (ICN).

NZNO belongs to ICN. Our membership dates back to 1912, when our far-sighted forebears in the New Zealand Trained Nurses Association decided to join.

But it’s taken until 2016 for the organisation that represents millions of nurses in 130 countries and brings the nursing voice to the world stage through such activities as International Nurses Day, to be headed by a New Zealander.

Although Frances is a fellow mental health nurse who trained and practised in my adopted home town of Wellington, I met her for the first time this year.

Next month, I will see her again when I travel with NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku and CE Memo Musa to the ICN meeting in Geneva. There we will take up the fresh opportunities her appointment presents, to continue our work for New Zealand nurses in the big (and acronym-filled) world of nursing.

In going to Geneva, I aim to carry out the democratic will of NZNO members, who voted at last year’s annual general meeting to expand our global connectedness with fellow nursing unions and professional associations.

Even flying economy, it’s still a lot of money. So why has the NZNO Board decided I should go, and what exactly will I be doing for our hard-working, fee-paying members?

Firstly, I’ll be taking part in a two-day meeting of national nursing associations (NNAs) from around the globe. This will finalise the nursing input into the World Health Assembly (WHA), which takes place in Geneva the following week.

The WHA is the world’s highest health policy-making body. It governs the World Health Organisation (WHO). This year, the WHA will discuss how to implement the new WHO Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030. This will set objectives for the next 15 years, which member governments (including New Zealand) should meet. So it’s an important discussion.

Based on an “environmental scan” which NZNO has already submitted, Kerri, Memo and I will talk about why safe staffing must be a top priority when implementing the new workforce strategy.

We also want to make sure that unregulated care and support workers remain a valued part of the nursing team, and aren’t used in place of it.

Support for pay equity agenda

We want to see commitments to pay equity locked in, along with ethical recruitment (especially for migrants), transition programmes for new graduates (like the nurse-entry-to-practice programme) and expanded nursing roles (like nurse prescribers). And we want to uphold the rights and role of indigenous peoples in developing a health workforce and systems that support their health.

The WHA is made up of health ministers, plus invited officials and guests. Without ICN input, which we will help shape, the nursing voice on global workforce issues like these would be largely absent from its deliberations.

The ICN and WHA meetings will also consider how to help countries meet the updated set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These were adopted by the United Nations last year, replacing the earlier Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs include objectives like reducing inequality and ending poverty, and protecting the ecosystems that our health depends on.

We will also participate in the “Triad” meeting, to take up these issues with nursing regulators and government officials. Nursing Council representatives and Chief Nurse Jane O’Malley will be at that meeting, too.

And finally I will stay on in Geneva for the World Health Professions Regulation Conference. This year, the conference includes topics like “Health professional regulation and trade agreements: Protecting the public vs facilitating commerce” – very relevant, I thought, given our experience with the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

So this trip to Geneva is going to be a challenge, as well as an opportunity. I will report back on our achievements for NZNO members, on my return. •

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