Future of Nursing:
Protect. Invest. Together.
Our 11th Hong Kong International Nursing Forum held on 8th and 9th December was undoubtedly an outstanding success. Drawing upon the theme of protecting and investing together for the future of nursing, our keynote speakers approached the topic with great style, demonstrating their deep knowledge and mastery of the topic. The lens that each of them applied in approaching the topic enabled a deep focus as well as a broad ranging and expansive view. Their presentations spotlighted many different aspects of the subject matter, raising questions and suggesting possible ways forward. They all demonstrated their passion for creating a future for nursing which will empower nurses for future challenges and enable more equitable opportunities for those discriminated against and underserved.
Professor Marla Salmon from the University of Washington gave the Grace Tien Lecture on the topic of Investing in a Better, Never-before Future for Nursing. She pointed out that the world is facing challenges never confronted before. We are at a critical point for the planet and, as nurses, we need to recognise the fundamental significance of investing in ourselves and our resources. She stressed the importance and value of simplicity in our lives, and, if we are to invest in the future, she said we need to overcome our fears about the changes required and keep our eyes and ears wide open to see the possibilities inherent in our changing circumstances.
In moving beyond a narrow anthropocentric perspective, she paid tribute to the skills and knowledge of various animals from whom we have much to learn. Proboscis monkeys are inquisitive as we need to be. Dolphins have mastered currents and can ride the waves as we need to. We need to learn about the forces pushing us forward, look after ourselves and preserve our energy. Navigating new terrains will require new skills and tools and we need to find common ground with others through new partnerships across sectors. Like elephants, we need to protect and nurture our young to provide support to the next generation of nurses. Drawing upon the vision of migrating geese, she said the best metaphor for the future is gravity and uplift.
An equally stimulating and passionate presentation was delivered by Professor Pamela Cipriano from the University of Virginia. She emphasised the importance of promoting well-being and preventing moral injury among nurses. The experience of caring for COVID-19 affected patients has resulted in moral distress for nurses through their inability to provide care to their satisfaction. Nurses have suffered burnout and exhaustion at alarming rates. The unprecedented demand upon nurses requires that the question asked of them is not “How are you doing?” but rather “How are you REALLY doing”. Professor Cipriano provided some useful sets of directives nurses can use to support others. For example, traumatised nurses need to be HEARD, PROTECTED, SUPPORTED, PREPARED and CARED FOR. She suggested strategies for managing occupational stress and taking action to prevent it. She also identified a new public health crisis, that of attrition. We need to work at restoring feelings of self-worth among burnt out nurses for, as she noted, lives cannot be saved if there is not a nurse at the bedside!
The Serena Yang Lecture was given by Dr Susan Hassmiller, Senior Adviser for Nursing, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She spoke about the document The Future of Nursing 2020 - 2030 in addressing the topic Charting a Path to Achieve Future of Nursing: Protect. Invest. Together. Health Equity. Her impassioned address cast a dark and heavy perspective upon the current global health situation. This is one of continuing health inequities related to racism, gender discrimination, poverty, age discrimination and limited access to resources, to name a few. She drew particular attention to workplace bullying and noted that it is incumbent upon leaders to implement appropriate policies and create a culture of mutual respect whereby bullying is called out. She noted the importance of improving resilience in nursing and argued for better pay and conditions for nurses. While AI and other technologies may reduce time spent in delivering care and improving safety through rapid communication means, the mental health of nurses is an ongoing issue. Nurses need to be protected through ensuring healthy environments which will benefit patients as well.
I have no doubt that the many hundreds of nurses and others from around the globe who participated in this Forum gained hugely from the wealth of knowledge, information and ideas that was shared. The take home message for me is that we need to reach out to colleagues and beyond to form partnerships, to share what we know and have, to care for ourselves and others, to nurture our young and communicate clearly as we face our future challenges.