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Nurses hold key to meeting global health challenges

Mar. 6, 2014, 10:06 AM

Her Royal Highness Princess Muna Al-Hussein of Jordan speaks at the Nursing Leadership in Global Health Symposium. (photo by John Russell)

The Nursing Leadership in Global Health Symposium brought together more than 230 attendees and international health providers representing 14 countries. The goal was to address improving care of patient populations by elevating the voice and influence of nursing on health policy and programming.

“The guiding force of our conference came from a shared observation with Partners in Health’s Sheila Davis: ‘Although nurses deliver 90 percent of health care to the world, they remain largely invisible. Their absence constitutes a global health crisis,’” said Vanderbilt’s Carol Etherington, MSN, associate professor of Nursing and the symposium’s coordinator.

“The focus of this event was to empower and engage nurses to be stronger patient advocates and activists at global, national and local levels, reducing the lost dollars and lost lives that result from their exclusion at decision-making tables.”

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Her Royal Highness Princess Muna Al-Hussein of Jordan addressed speakers and guests last week at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville. Al-Hussein is the mother of His Majesty King Abdullah the Second of Jordan, and has a longtime interest in developing nursing as a significant force in the quality and distribution of health care in her home country and around the world.

“Global health is facing unprecedented challenges, and nurses are at the heart of meeting them,” said Al-Hussein. “Nurses worldwide represent a force of abilities that can shape and advance health care. Studies consistently show that investing in nurses is one of the most effective tools of promoting health care. With time and energy, along with access to adequate resources, nurses can make a world of difference in the lives of people and populations.”

The conference featured more than 30 speakers presenting a variety of plenary sessions and breakouts following one of four tracks focused on how to increase the influence of nursing within global health: leadership and management; policy; advocacy; and field engagement.

Key takeaways include:

• Nursing is a key component in scaling up global programs through development and nurturing inter-professional health care teams.

• Nursing roles are expanding in developed countries, but in far too many areas of the globe, nurses are in extreme need of mentoring and networking with their colleagues within and across borders.

• Nursing education programs must strengthen the teaching of health policy development to increase future nursing presence in policymaking issues.

• All nurses must have competency in the concept of community health to support global health work that transcends borders.

• Partnership with patients is at the core of nursing and a key component of patient-centered health, which can be harnessed to promote patient power in policymaking.

• Nurses must take advantage of opportunities to fill gaps and needs of fragmented health care systems around the world.

The conference showcased global health research posters in conjunction with Sigma Theta Tau International’s Iota Chapter and awarded top honors to three submissions.

The conference was sponsored by the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and the Department of Nursing Education and Professional Development.

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