1. Shamian, Judith PhD, RN, FAAN


It's time to reach beyond the bedside.


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Many of you may be familiar with the Millennium Development Goals, eight goals established by the United Nations (UN) for improving health and life and set for implementation by 2015. The UN has since released 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) intended to further unify global health efforts and to "end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all," with a 2030 target date. Although as nurses we may naturally gravitate toward SDG 3, "Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages," it's essential to consider all of the areas that influence health. The interconnections between health and well-being and socioeconomic factors matter.

Figure. Judith Shami... - Click to enlarge in new window Judith Shamian

The role of nursing in achieving the SDGs is critical, since nurses form the backbone of health care provision in almost every country. In settings ranging from hospitals to community clinics, we pull together the services necessary to meet the needs of our patients. To achieve a full and healthy life, people require education, nutritious food, clean water, a safe living environment, and at times, medication, various therapies, and social work or case management services. It's time for us to reach beyond the bedside and the individual patient and work with others across our communities, states, countries, and the world to foster better health for all people.


Last May, the International Council of Nurses (ICN), representing more than 16 million nurses worldwide, sent a large delegation to the 69th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHA, the decision-making arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), meets annually, attended by delegates from all 194 of the WHO's member states and from several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The ICN attends every year to ensure that the voices of nurses are heard at this high level of decision making, and to make recommendations on critical items on the agenda.


This year, the WHA's major focus was on achieving the SDGs. The ICN sent over 60 delegates-one of the largest NGO delegations present-to expand nursing's visibility and representation. Yet worldwide, nursing lacks adequate representation at all levels of policymaking. Although nurses make daily, valuable contributions to the profession and to patient health, these go largely unnoticed because most nurses haven't pulled up a chair at a policy table. The ICN has a seat at the global table-but our profession needs many more nurses to fill seats at local, organizational, state, national, and global levels. Although the ICN represents millions of nurses worldwide, it can't further the WHA's agenda and fulfill the SDGs without the involvement of each of us.


Fundamental to achieving the SDGs is a broad-based investment in universal health care, with a primary focus on health promotion and prevention of illness. In so doing we face many challenges, which include lack of access to regional care and inequitable distribution of resources. Solutions will come only through collaborative efforts by nurses and other health care workers. The WHO and local, state, and national governments must continue to actively involve nurses in the planning, development, and implementation of all relevant policies, programs, and proposed strategies.


Nursing has roots not only in patient care but also in systems management and health care delivery. As the only health care professional on the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth, I collaborate with 25 other commissioners representing international organizations, academia, civil society, unions, and the private sector. The commission's objective is to drive major political and paradigmatic change in order to promote health, economic growth, and job creation, especially for women and youth.


To achieve these visionary goals, nurses and nursing organizations need to be active at every level. We can achieve the SDGs and the goals of our national and international nursing organizations. But it's going to take all of us to do it. I encourage you to find one small way to begin, today.