International Council of Nurses' Global Nursing Leadership Institute (GNLI ) Part 1 of 2
Angela Wignall RN, BSN, BA, MA
Since September, 2020, I have had the honour of participating in the International Council of Nurses’ Global Nursing Leadership Institute (GNLI). This highly competitive strategic leadership programme brings together nurse leaders from around the world to drive policy to improve global health, health care, and nursing. As the only Canadian selected, I have the privilege of not only representing Canadian nurses and nursing but to learn from other countries how we might strengthen our national nursing infrastructure to be a more visible player in global health.
The GNLI programme focuses on high-level professional, political, and policy leadership skills to support nurse participation in the policy arena. The programme recognizes that nurse participation in policy and politics is a critical part of driving health for all and advancing the profession of nursing both today and for the future. Scholars accepted into this programme spend six months working with internationally respected facilitators on policy making and influence. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, GNLI scholars also gathered together in person for a residency in Geneva, Switzerland. However, due to these unprecedented times, the ICN has moved the GNLI program online and we began the very first virtual GNLI in September.
I’ll never forget our first global gathering in late September. As the Zoom tiles slowly populated with nurses in every corner of the globe, the visual reality of our shared and divergent locations could not be ignored. Nurse leaders joined the call from comfortable offices in futuristic buildings, from coffee shop tables in busy markets where the internet signal was stable, from dusty rooms in remote care stations deep in desert, and from the high offices of ICN and WHO in Geneva. From Tanzania to Norway to Nepal to Victoria, BC, we spoke our names in a shared language and named what drove us to seek out a global community of policy nurses to grow with and to learn from.
Over the first four months, we’ve come together as a global group and grown relationships within our WHO regions. As a member of the PAHO region, I walk this learning journey with two nurses from the United States, a nurse from Barbados, and a Canadian nurse now living and teaching in America. I also have one-on-one conversations with nurses in other regions, connecting with nurses in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia. In every conversation, a passion for the work of nurses and for caring for others shines through. We talk regulatory frameworks, bridging nurses from education into practice, addressing the global nursing shortage, and advancing nursing voice in policy and leadership. Our overarching concerns are eerily similar, though the circumstances of each country vary widely. In conversation with a nurse in Bhutan, we discussed who gets to regulate nurses and nursing practice. In her country, there are 1500 nurses, all under physician regulation and control. Her dream is to build a college regulating nurses, by nurses, for nurses. She asked me how we’d done it and as I shared the history of nursing in British Columbia and the decades of advocacy that shaped nursing knowledge and practice in our country, I reflected on the self-regulation that I take for granted. I shared that my practice rests on these brave women who insisted on nursing value and voice and that she would be honoured by future nurses who would look back on her advocacy similarly. We sat for a minute together, feeling ourselves in the continuum of nurses driving for change. We left the conversation hopeful.
For the next six months, I will continue to be part of global and regional learning sessions and projects. Our work will cover leadership in the global context, policy making and political competency, strategic communications, levels of intervention and addressing scale, and what it means to care for both people and systems. I’ll also execute an individual project on my own here in Canada and complete a WHO regional project with my PAHO group members. My individual project focuses on provincial and national infrastructure for nursing leadership in government, aiming to understand more fully how and why nurses have been successful in establishing nursing leadership in government and addressing why Canada does not have a Chief Nursing Officer or nursing office participating in global nursing work. And thanks to the support of NNPBC as our professional provinicial nursing association, I’ll have to chance to share my learning and this work with you as it unfolds.
Annette Kennedy, President of the International Council of Nurses, stressed to us early in this program that no matter where we serve, be it at the bedside, in leadership, with unions, or with associations, our purpose remains the same: to serve humanity and to improve health for all. Being part of decision making tables where health policy is shaped is a critical part of our nursing service. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world that nurses are not merely heroic angels caring for the sick but essential professionals who are national and global assets. Where there is instability in global health systems, nurse step in to hold up the walls, to bridge the gaps, and to rebuild structures. Through participation in activities like the GNLI, we are connected to the larger conversation of nursing across the globe, to the shared barriers we still face in having our voices heard and the goals and outcomes we are all striving for. I look forward to sharing this learning journey with you and to hearing from you if you’d like to connect about the GNLI, policy nursing, and the Canadian nurse in global action.
Sounds like a great experience! How did you get funding to attend?
Thank you so much for the great question, Michele! The GNLI programme cost was reduced this year due to the programme moving to a virtual format and no longer requiring housing scholars in Geneva. There is funding available to nurses from low income countries in the form of subsidies, which is an important part of ensuring equity of access to these kinds of opportunities globally. I'm immensely grateful to NNPBC for being my sponsoring organization and for enabling my participation. The Association has not only been a financial contributor to my participation but has also worked alongside me as the Canadian scholar to share the experience and learnings with nurses across BC, Canada, and the world. In addition, I was supported by my employer in liberating time intermittently over the past year to enable my participation, though with the time difference between Canada and Geneva many sessions took place at night or in the early morning. I've also been supported by my PhD program leaders at the University of Victoria, Dr. Susan Duncan and Dr. Lorelei Newton, and my GNLI programme mentor, Dr. Lynn Stevenson. Nurses' participation in policy and governance requires supportive infrastructure. For me, that infrastructure was an expansive community of support including NNPBC, a community for which I am immensely grateful.