Barcelona Day 3: Elections & Opening Ceremonies

Saturday, 27 May 23:00

Before I was approved to attend and cover the International Nurses Council (ICN) Congress this week, I had no clue about many of the things I’ve been writing about for the last few days. Apart from a few friends in college who were into medical missions, nursing, to me, as I mentioned in my blog post of last week for AJN Off the Charts, was solely a local, American concern.

While the governing body of ICN announced elected board members this morning, I shamefully realized I knew little or nothing of many of the new, celebrated leaders or their respective member countries. When Pam Cipriano, President of our professional nursing organization was named elected member of the board, I wondered how many of my colleagues or nursing friends knew about her work, platform, or even of her name. As I feverishly Googled the emoji of the United Arab Emerites flag to send out a congratulatory tweet about AJN International Advisory Board Dr. Fatima Al Rifai’s similar election, I realized didn’t have the slightest idea about the UAE’s nursing population, leadership structure or professional progress. I had no clue how I would learn all of these new people and concepts, but knew, as I experienced more and more, that I now wanted to try.

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Later, after 8,00+ international attendees filled the Olympic Village that overlooks the city of Barcelona for the opening ceremonies, I watched country after country of National Nursing Association representatives (including American Nurses Association) take their places in the opening parade, and marveled at how many truly diverse cultures of care crossed the stage waving their countries’ flags into the spotlight.  My awe doubled when I, a member of the press and a nurse, was allowed backstage to the delegates VIP area, and then shorly after, to stand directly in front of the oncoming parade and honor delegates through my documentation of their participation.

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Most of all, I found it breathtaking to become a living mix of the things that inspire me daily – nursing and writing. To be a badged member of the press, but with insight and emotion about the goings on around me at the opening ceremonies, made me realize just how valuable diversification in nursing really is. If only we would start to realize that nursing is a foundation for every area of business, education, clinical practice and more, and that our true impact, as Judith Shamian, acting president of ICN, would say, is determined, not so much by who we are or who we work for, but how we choose to innovate our profession through our time and talents, not just our day jobs.

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And so, when one of my personal, early nursing heros, Dr. Linda Aiken, came to the stage to accept the “Nobel Prize of Nursing” (a description I’m not sure that I agree with, since nurses should also be winning the real Nobel Prize, no?), I clung to her words as not just a nurse, but as a nurse who is also a scientist of nursing. For the first time, I saw how important her work of science creation is, how the necessary, undeniable, extensive, replicable and global body of evidence that she led for the benefit of our profession stemmed not just from her initial clinical training, but from her passion to forward the profession as a whole, through actionable and quantifiable evidence.

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Of course, some of the nurse-centric entertainment after the awards ceremonies made this nurse cry and marvel at the magnitude of this profession that I so deeply love, but it was the presence of so many nurses communicating and celebrating together that touched me deepest. Likely for the first time in my ten year career, I connected with the need to actualize the massive, inherent value of the hard work that we must begin to do – with our voices, our written words, and our brains – together, and for each other’s future.

When I’d captured enough, I snuck out and walked to the metro with a group of international nurses that I met along the way, the city skyline closing the night in a dusky blue behind us.

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