Nursing workforce focus of ICN forum
Nurse leaders at the 17th International Council of Nurses (ICN) Workforce Forum in Stockholm, Sweden, in September discussed trends in the nursing workforce. The economy dominated the discussions — most notably, how the economic downturn is affecting nurses' working conditions.
Nurses from Australia, Canada, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S. described austerity measures their countries are taking and some of their negative effects. For example, in several countries, the reorganization of health care is resulting in privatization, staff cuts, wage freezes or cuts, movement from full-time employees to agency staff and reassignment of tasks to "less expensive" providers. Austerity measures are also adversely affecting patients, such as longer wait times and overcrowded hospitals.
Amidst the challenges, however, some attendees reported promising workforce initiatives: in the U.S., a video contest entitled "I am a nurse, I am a leader" was held in which nurses described what leadership meant to them; in Australia, training opportunities were offered to nurses to learn how to participate at government tables; and in Sweden, the Swedish Association of Health Professionals is advocating that patients with complex and multiple health problems be assigned to one nurse who would help them navigate the system and answer questions.
Representatives from CNA and the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CNFU) reported some positive initiatives. CNA's National Expert Commission, for example, is perceived as a novel strategy for nurses to generate policy solutions for transforming the health system. And CFNU noted positive outcomes from its Research to Action initiative. CFNU also plans to lobby provincial and territorial governments and regional or local health authorities to introduce presumptive legislation that would automatically qualify nurses for workers' compensation benefits in the event of a back injury.
The forum concluded with attendees drafting a communiqué identifying their concerns and suggesting possible recommendations. It's available on the ICN website at www.icn.ch. CNA and CFNU will together host the 2012 ICN Workforce Forum.