“Brilliant event…, fantastic array of speakers, enormously stimulating and inspiring”
This was one piece of feedback that we received following a conference hosted jointly by the ICPCN and St Christopher’s CARE on 2nd of December in support of nurses involved in end-of-life care who are pioneering in nature, or aspire to be so.
We had planned it as the conclusion of two years’ work focused on identifying and supporting pioneering nurses around the world undertaken by St Christopher’s Hospice in London, UK. It also built on similar work led by the ICPCN, WHPCA and IAHPC who were keen also to identify and celebrate nurses’ contributions to palliative care. In recognition of our shared aims, we made plans for a virtual meeting to which an invite was extended to any nurse around the world interested to achieve impact for people at the end of life through their professional life.
We were not disappointed by the response – nearly 90 nurses attended from over 30 countries spanning a broad range of experience. We met chief nurses (current and retired), government advisors, student nurses, nurses early in their career and those working in advanced roles. Some professionals beyond nurses also attended – interested to hear more about the context, challenges and opportunities for pioneering nursing. Countries represented included those identified as low, middle and high income in nature. Regardless of very different challenges experienced on a day-to-day basis, there was a strong sense of connectivity between the participants and a clear desire to learn from each other. Most importantly there were powerful shared views about what a pioneering nurse looks and feels like.
An encouraging poll held during the course of the day confirmed an excitement on the part of all who attended about the future and their potential contribution to end-of-life care. Less positive but important to note was the much smaller proportion of attendees who struggled to recognise their efforts as pioneering (despite our belief that this is the case) and the notable request they had for more skills development, peer support and organisational encouragement. Discussion on the part of participants confirmed the scale and scope of effort to improve care – hugely inspiring for those of us listening and learning.
In the course of the day participants had the opportunity to hear from leading nurses around the world who are undoubtedly pioneering in their efforts and are changing the world as a consequence. Professor Myrna Doumit from Beirut spoke of national efforts on her part to ensure nurses are part of short and long term solutions in the Lebanon; Professor Rose Clarke Nanyonga, from Uganda spoke about the place of education and training in driving service developments led by nurses; Dr Nicoleta Mitrea spoke of the personal values she has which have shaped her contribution to the development of palliative care in Romania and Dr David Wright from Canada spoke of pioneering work he is leading around integrating grief literacy (bereavement and loss ) into masters level study, and its transformational impact for all who engage. Participants also had opportunity to hear from Professor Heather Richardson, Professor Julia Downing and Marie Cooper about characteristics of a pioneering nurse, personal and professional journeys of learning, and the place of the Lantern Model in shaping pioneering effort.
Whilst the conference organisers had viewed this as a concluding activity on the pioneering nurse programme at St Christopher’s, participants had a different idea. Many asked that the event be repeated next year and have been actively connecting with each other since then. We want to enable that and have been giving thought to other ways in which we can support these amazing nurses in the meantime. The words of Florence Nightingale articulated some 200 years ago or so spur us in our ambitions in this regard – ‘Unless we are making progress in our nursing every year, every month, every week, take my word for it, we are going back.” The more recent words of Cicely Saunders, another pioneering nurse confirms the value of global effort in this regard: “Go around and see what is being done and then see how your own circumstances can produce another version, there is need for diversity in the field”.
One offer we can make immediately is the talks and resources highlighted in the course of the day and that is available to anyone interested to know more about pioneering nurses. See https://pioneeringnurse.stchristophers.org.uk/ for more details. In addition we are thinking about ways to help nurses maintain and build their new networks including supported places on a new one year programme focused on contemporary palliative nursing. See https://www.stchristophers.org.uk/lanternmodelprogramme for more details on that. If you are a nurse who wants to lead change know one and want to be connected to others doing similar amazing work then get in touch with St Christopher’s and ICPCN and we can tell you more about what we are thinking and doing. Contact Marie at email@example.com or Julia at firstname.lastname@example.org