“Nurses and their duties stretch beyond healthcare intervention,” said Howard Catton, director of nursing and health policy with the International Council of Nurses (ICN). “They are the link to a sustainable health system and daily living.”
In France, independent nurses like Francois Sterpione work with teachers, administrators, and parents to ensure that a young girl can receive daily injections for her diabetes. His goal is to make sure that she can have a normal school day, “just like any other kid.” In Switzerland, a young nurse enabled a working mother to reclaim her career (and sense of self), by ensuring her wound treatment matched her lifestyle.
As a registered nurse himself, Catton personally knows the plight of today’s nurses.
“Nurses often stay with a patient throughout the time of disease or even a chronic illness over the course of many years,” he explained. “They are often at the centre of coordinating services, helping patients navigate through different healthcare systems, and regularly serving as the key to true universal healthcare coverage.”
As chronic conditions increase, demographics change, and health systems are forced to function with less money, less staff, and less time; Catton believes there is an international responsibility to make sure that these dedicated individuals are not only supported today, but set up to succeed tomorrow.
“Current reports show a total shortage of healthcare professionals by 17.4 million. Approximately nine million of those are nurses,” said Catton. “So, while recruitment is one side of the coin, retention is the other. And my advice is simple. Value the nurses you have.”
According to Catton, many nurses are quitting earlier than normal due to high demands and poor working conditions. In addition, issues of international migration and mobility are requiring cross-cultural competence and language skills so nurses can continue to meet more specialised patient needs.
Catton believes that the nursing profession will evolve faster than the healthcare system, so they must be positioned and supported to work at the full scope of their practice and in advanced and extended roles which are so critical to delivering on Universal Healthcare Coverage.
“Nurses need access to professional, clinical and career development opportunities; they must be recognised and respected at work; and they must be well compensated (financially) accordingly,” Catton emphasised. “What’s more, national policies have the power to make these demands a realisation. These factors also play a key role in attracting young talent given the decline in pursuing a nursing career.”
For Catton, the leading roles nurses play is far beyond the bedside. He believes their role in key decision-making bodies is critical when it comes to local and global health concerns.
“Just a few weeks ago, I heard a nurse speak about nurse involvement (or its lack thereof) in a disaster release effort. Obviously, the nurses were a part of the clean-up crew, but there was no consultation with the nurses as to how the overall effort should be coordinated,” Catton explained. “The excuse, as the nurse described, was that the committee did not invite them because it had always been this way.
Additionally, the nurses – so busy with on-the-ground efforts – required support from their organisation to be released to participate in these decision-making discussions.”
For Catton, this was a no-brainer.
“Nurses are critical in re-building community infrastructure and have experienced first-hand what it takes to execute long-term development and disaster clean-up efforts,” he said. “With fresh leadership at the helm of the World Health Organization (WHO), I look forward to seeing strides being made in this arena. Historically, there has been a challenge within the organisation of having the nursing voice represented, but with the appointment of a Chief Nurse at WHO, the future looks bright.”
Nurture your nurse relationships
For Catton, there is something fundamental about working with and for nurses. Whether it is a corporate collaboration, a coalition, or simply talking to them and hearing about their issues and challenges in day-to-day practice, he finds that working with them as allies is to fully grasp how healthcare is organised, how it is delivered, and how to identify its barriers and best solutions.
“Long gone are the days of healthcare hierarchy,” said Catton.
For Catton, the future of healthcare can’t afford to play politics. Nurses are partners in care and they have a voice. Our job is to listen.
About HARTMANN's 200-year anniversary
In 2018, HARTMANN is celebrating its 200-year anniversary. We are now counting down to our anniversary celebration in June 2018 through a series of articles that show how our employees and partners contribute to advancing healthcare, as well as discussing trends and issues that affect the healthcare systems we serve.