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An international display of nursing unity in Melbourne

More than five years in the planning, the recent ICN Congress in Melbourne was a resounding success. Debra Thoms offers her thoughts on the event.

It has been over a month since the conclusion of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) 25th Quadrennial Congress. Over this time, I’ve had time to reflect on the enormity of this event and what it meant to me both on a personal and professional level.

On a professional level, and on behalf of the Australian College of Nursing, I can confidently state that the congress proved to be the successful culmination of many years work. In fact, it was way back in 2007 that Australia learnt it had won the right to host this year’s congress.

Through successive CEOs – from Dr Rosemary Bryant, who led the successful hosting bid, to Deb Cerasa, who steered the majority of the work during the intervening years, and finally me, who was able to benefit from the work of my predecessors – preparations have been in train since then.

Those preparations certainly paid off. As the host country, we were proud to welcome almost 4000 nurses to Melbourne, and to see them demonstrate the unity of the global nursing profession.

The international nursing community continues to have so much to offer when coming together to face global equity and access to health care. This congress’ focus was to look at nursing’s prominent role, as the world’s largest health care profession, in providing adequate access to care in our differing contexts.

Models of care, community and government programs and policies, ethics and differing education designs were shared across cultures. Looking at the issues through an international scope has allowed for further planning, development and collaboration. I feel assured that delegates left the congress ready to share the ideas and innovations discovered throughout the five days with their colleagues at home.

The healthy building of relationships amongst the international nursing community was further cemented with the unanimous vote for the inclusion of Palestine into the Council of National Representatives (CNR), the governing body of ICN, and the daily display of camaraderie amongst delegates. This truly served to remind us all of our global responsibilities to support one another.

Personally, my inclusion in the CNR, alongside ACN president Carmen Morgan and federal secretary of the Australian Nursing Federation, Lee Thomas, (collaborative partner with ACN) only confirmed my strong conviction toward the role of nurse leadership and its ability to develop good cultural practices in our profession. As nurses in Australia, we are a highly trusted profession, but to maintain that position of responsibility, we must continually work toward the greater good in the health arena.

The enthusiasm and excellence displayed among our Australian nursing cohort at the congress in volunteering, presenting and representing our national nursing profession, was remarkable. There is great value in membership; being a voice in an international professional arena as well as within Australia allows us to control the direction of the positive change that is to come in nursing.

I would like to recognise the outstanding work of ACN staff (including Blinky and Skippy!) and all those who volunteered and provided such valuable support to the delegates – their continuing good humour and smiling faces received many positive comments. I’d also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank Dr Bryant, outgoing ICN president, and the ICN staff for all the hard work and commitment they contributed towards establishing a congress that was undeniably an event to remember.

Adjunct professor Debra Thoms is chief executive of the Australian College of Nursing.

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