I naively thought that I could write a daily post once the International Council of Nurses 2017 Congress began. Instead, I found myself falling asleep, fingers on my laptop, my hotel light the only one piercing the black Barcelona sky (which is saying a lot, considering early bird dinner specials start at around 9PM). After the second night of this routine, I learned my lesson and decided to be present in the experience, to write later. It has taken me some time to catch up and collect my reflections on this rich experience. Photos help, of course.
For the gritty details of the Congress, I wrote and co-wrote three posts for AJN with Editor-in-chief Shawn Kennedy, and contributed to an article for their August issue, too:
Pre: Nursing as an International Profession
Recap: Talking Nursing in Many Languages
Post: International Health, Nurse Staffing, the Power of Social Media
I continue to struggle to succinctly describe my own personal experiences during the nonstop plenary sessions, breakout sessions, policy cafes, networking hours and receptions of each Congress day, evening and night. The sheer experience of knowing that the thousands of attendees shared the same life work as mine was nothing short of thrilling. I found myself smiling as I spotted ICN bags and ID tags on my metro ride home, and took in more speeches, panel sessions and notes than my brain sometimes felt it was able to master.
It was particularly thrilling to act as a “member of the press” running from session to press conference to interview, and I felt especially motivated by my double identity as both nurse and hopeful journalist. From daily entry into the press room, to the ability to stand a few unrestricted feet away from the starting point of the famous Parade of Nations, I couldn’t help but pinch myself from time to time as my favorite things – nursing and writing – blended together each day. As I experienced more and more, my desire to help other nurses have similar experiences grew.
Along with inspiration and an endless stream of new ideas, the Congress brought me so much professional clarity. It helped me see that there are thousands of other nurses like me – nerdy, passionated, button-pushers – doing important work that deserves to be globally known and understood. Being around this body of inspiration, meeting people credited with shaping our profession, tweeting alongside our academic and professional leaders, put so much into perspective for me.
I loved Barcelona, too. In the tiny pockets of time I had to explore, I marveled at the friendliness of the streets and the city´s sunny energy. The presence of Gaudi all around the city became a kind of treasure hunt, and I picked up on his influence in tiny details everywhere.
I especially loved the routine I fell into in Barcelona, waking to the breeze in the balcony of my hotel room, the colorful patio where I took my first coffee of the day, my quick walk to the subway stopping for a roll and orange juice in a tiny plastic bag. I loved the ease and efficiency of the trains, with doors that opened only when you pushed a round button and summoned them to, clean stations and quick arrivals. On my free days, I walked for hours, with few destinations in mind except those I found along the way.
It was difficult to return home. On other travels, I’ve longed for home before my departure date, but this one was different. I wished for additional days to sit and think over what I had just experienced. I wanted more time to talk and connect with the nurses I met. I wanted to meet more nurses! I wanted to see more hours of art than the fast-paced glances I had crammed into my last days. I knew that when I arrived home, I’d be back at work, deep in the pettiness of daily struggles, daydreaming of the inspiration I had just seen and lived.
In the days that have followed, my time at ICN serves as a kind of secret motivating experience that I can pull out of the back pocket of my mind whenever daily life gets me frustrated. Processing it took quite some time, and the month of June sped by with work and other projects, but the memories and insights grown in all that I saw and did in Barcelona encourage me to continue toward the ideas and goals I set for myself there.