1. Kennedy, Maureen Shawn MA, RN, FAAN
  2. Anderson, Amanda MPA, MSN, RN, CCRN


AJN's editor-in-chief Shawn Kennedy and editorial board member and contributing editor Amanda Anderson attended the 2017 International Council of Nurses Congress May 27 to June 1 in Barcelona, and present the highlights here. This report expands on the summary posted on AJN's blog, Off the Charts:


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Established in 1899 and representing over 16 million nurses from 130 countries, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) seeks to advance nurses, nursing, and health through influencing policy. This year, nurses gathered in Barcelona to attend the ICN's biennial meeting.

Figure. New ICN pres... - Click to enlarge in new window New ICN president Annette Kennedy (bottom row, third from left) flanked by new ICN board members.

We arrived in this beautiful Mediterranean city a few days before the ICN Congress to attend the business session of the ICN's governing body, the 300-member Council of Nurse Representatives (CNR). Then it was on to the ICN Congress, which drew 8,200 nurses from 135 nations. Below are some of the highlights from both the CNR session and the congress.



Ambassador William Swing, director general of the International Organization for Migration, addressed the need for "politically and socially sound solutions" to migration at the CNR's opening plenary session. He noted that, in 2015, more than 244 million people migrated in search of opportunities and 65 million fled conflicts and other intolerable conditions. Swing, who received a standing ovation, was eloquent in describing what he called "a world on the move" and called for a rethinking of migration as "not a problem to be solved, but a new human reality we need to manage respectfully and responsibly."


Swing also noted that current migration policies are outdated and that the solution lies in educating citizens worldwide on migration as a new reality, increasing regulated migration to decrease irregular migration, decriminalizing migrants (evidence doesn't support the perception that most migrants are criminals), and developing effective integration programs. The CNR is developing a position statement to provide guidance for nurses on their professional and ethical obligations in working with migrants, refugees, and displaced persons. ICN chief executive officer (CEO) Frances Hughes, in remarking on Swing's call for a more humane approach to migrant care, said, "Sometimes, nurses need to be the consciences of our countries."



This year marked the election of a new ICN president, and Annette Kennedy from Ireland was the unanimous choice. Among the new ICN board members is Pam Cipriano, American Nurses Association (ANA) president, and Fatima Al Rifai, director of nursing at the Federal Department of Nursing for the United Arab Emirates' Ministry of Health and one of AJN's international advisory board members. We were fortunate to spend a few minutes with incoming president Kennedy, as well as with Hughes and outgoing president Judith Shamian, and asked each of them what message they would like to convey to American nurses. (You can listen to these interviews by going to, clicking on the "Multimedia" tab, then "Podcasts," and then "Behind the Article.")

Figure. Nurses gathe... - Click to enlarge in new window Nurses gather in the Palau Sant Jordi olympic arena for the opening ceremony of the ICN Congress.

At the CNR's closing ceremony, Shamian transferred the gold ICN presidential necklace to Kennedy, who in her inaugural speech told the audience that her watchword will be "together."



Plenary presentations at the ICN Congress focused on promoting gender equality; disaster preparedness; and new approaches to care in the community, from retail health clinics to Buurtzorg, the Dutch neighborhood nursing model (see In the Community, August 2013). An entire day was devoted to the topic of staffing, beginning with a presentation by Linda Aiken, director and founder of Penn Nursing's Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, who summarized the mountain of evidence she has compiled on nurse staffing and patient outcomes. After spending the last 20 years conducting studies in over 30 countries around the globe, Aiken says she is now using her findings to show that increased nurse staffing not only is associated with decreased mortality, but also saves money. Aiken was one of this year's recipients of the ICN's prestigious Christiane Reimann Prize. The other awardee was Sheila Dinotshe Tlou, director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa, for her advocacy and work for HIV prevention and treatment.

Figure. Left to righ... - Click to enlarge in new window Left to right: Frances Hughes, ICN chief executive officer, Howard Catton, ICN nursing and health policy consultant, and Lord Nigel Crisp, cochair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health, announcing the "Nursing Now" campaign at an ICN press event.

Hughes, together with Lord Nigel Crisp, cochair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health, officially announced the "Nursing Now" campaign. This global initiative's goal is to "release the potential of nurses to deliver and ensure better health, improve the lives of women at work, and strengthen local economies." The three-year initiative will officially launch later this year. It aims to hold the new World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to his promise that he would fully support nurses and include them on his senior staff.


Leslie Mancuso, CEO of Jhpiego, the international nonprofit health organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, has worked for 40 years to build nurse competency to improve the health of women and families. In her address, she spoke largely of the need for collaboration among members of the nursing profession, and repeated her signature phrase, which traveled through the congress like wildfire all week: "If you don't have a seat at the table, bring your own chair." (AJN will publish a profile on Mancuso in an upcoming issue.)


Shamian and Hughes presented reports on the considerable restructuring of ICN governance procedures, from streamlining board size and administrative staff to building new revenue sources to ensure the fiscal viability of the organization. Shamian stressed broader roles for nursing in participating in world health, noting that, "if we are only active in nursing, both the public and nursing will suffer." She emphasized the need to "build relationships beyond the nursing bubble" if we are to have a voice in setting the health care agenda outside of nursing. The ICN's new platform, Voice to Lead (, showcases nurses' contributions by linking specific case examples to achieving the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


Attending this meeting was inspiring and unifying-the work of many of our colleagues is truly amazing, especially the impressive work being done in resource-poor countries. Any member of a national nursing organization (like the ANA) that is an ICN constituent organization can attend. Meetings are held every two years; the 2019 meeting will be in Singapore. Start planning now!