GNLI Alumni Speak Out - Part 3

Jane Salvage

“GNLI is designed for nurse leaders who want to think globally and act locally”

Professor Jane Salvage, Programme Director of GNLI

Interview by Gyorgy Madarasz, ICN Press Officer


The International Council of Nurses (ICN) launched its Global Nursing Leadership Institute programme in 2009 and since then more than 250 leading nurses have already participated in it. 2019 will be the fourth year that Professor Jane Salvage, an internationally recognised nursing and health policy activist, directs and helps to develop this programme.

In a recent interview, Professor Salvage reported that joining GNLI has been an amazing opportunity to bring her global nursing leadership experience, knowledge and networks to ICN - and to deepen and develop her own leadership competencies. “I'm in a stage in my career where I feel excited and committed about supporting the next generation of nursing leaders, while continuing my own lifelong learning. If you're not developing yourself, you can't help others to develop. It's a marvellous opportunity,” she added.

She described GNLI as a strategic leadership programme that prepares top nurses from around the world to drive policy that improves the health of people, improves health care, and advances the nursing profession. She emphasized that one of the main aims of the programme is to work on improving one’s competencies in making and influencing policy. Regarding the 2019 programme, she mentioned that the focus will be on the role of nursing in helping to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. “We'll look at three topical themes: Universal health coverage and health as a human right, the primary health care approach, and gender equality,” she said.

Professor Salvage emphasized that GNLI is designed for nurse leaders who want to think globally and act locally. They may be working in government, civil service and national nursing regulatory bodies; international, national and regional health organisations, including health service providers and nongovernmental organisations; professional nursing associations and trade unions; education, research and development; and advanced practice roles. “That's a wide range of settings,” she added. “The key thing is that they are in roles where they influence policy on nursing, health and social care. The very diverse mix of GNLI scholars to date - around 250 in total, from dozens of different countries - reflects this range and variety of nursing roles.”

She described her experiences with GNLI programme as very intense, emotional, educational, developmental and inspiring. She believes that during her long career in nursing, leading and participating in many different programmes, GNLI stands out as one of the most exciting, exhilarating, productive and challenging programmes she has ever attended. She believes that working with 30 top nurses a year from every part of the globe is a challenge since they bring such different experiences, personalities, backgrounds, cultures, beliefs and ways of working. “This means that it isn't always a comfortable ride,” she said, “but that's part of the magic. We all must stretch ourselves, facilitators and scholars alike, to think outside of our usual boxes, learn from each other, explore what diversity really means, and emerge as enriched and more rounded people, and more effective leaders.”

Professor Salvage is really struck by how powerful the GNLI scholars' networks are. She explained that each year, the graduates form deep bonds and connections that endure, some for many years. They do joint projects, visit each other’s countries, present at international events and publish their work. “My sense is that they can bring this international learning back to the realities of their daily work and use it to help improve the health and care of their own communities and organisations.” She outlined that one reason why this happens is that the programme is not academic - though it is scholarly - but interactive action learning. “We work hard to help people learn how to connect, trust and share - essential skills for effective leaders,” she added.

Professor Salvage pointed out that GNLI moves with the times. She inherited a very sound and successful programme from her predecessor, Stephanie Ferguson. Since then she has worked with two brilliant co-facilitators, Diana Mason and Jill White. “We have introduced various changes,” she explained. “We focus more closely on policy: if nurses are not present at the top table, or unable to function effectively when they are there, it will be impossible to ensure that nursing makes its full contribution to health improvement. Nurses at all levels, from ward to board to the international stage, need to be much savvier around politics and policy. Linked with this is the importance of looking outside the nursing box, to frame our policy proposals and present our case in language that appeals to politicians, policy-makers, media and the public.”

She is delighted to be leading GNLI again in 2019 – in the year of its tenth anniversary. She indicated that she and her team, as in previous years, will review and refresh the programme to reflect changing needs and priorities, aiming to attract top nurses of a calibre and potential to make the most of the unique opportunity that GNLI offers. “This is a very critical time for nursing worldwide, a window of opportunity that won’t be open for long, so we need to be ready to act now, as the Nursing Now campaign is urging us to do,” she emphasized.

Professor Salvage believes passionately that more opportunities must be found to make the programme available to many more leaders, and ideally cascade it to regional and national levels. She outlined that there are 23 million nurses worldwide and there is a need for a GNLI that can develop not just 30, or 300 leaders a year, but 3000 or even 30,000. “Our sponsors have been very supportive and generous, but we need to tap into new sources too, and persuade the big funders that investing in nursing leadership brings excellent returns for global heath,” she concluded.

Professor Salvage is the author of several books including “The Politics of Nursing”, widely considered as a wake-up call to the profession. She trained and worked as a clinical nurse in the East End of London, UK. She worked as WHO Chief Nurse for the European Region and at WHO Headquarters in Geneva. She is regularly invited as a teacher and presenter on nursing and health care in every part of the world. She is a visiting professor at the School of Nursing, Coimbra University in Portugal, and at Kingston University and St George’s University of London, England. In the UK, she has worked on major policy reviews, including the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health 2016 Report on nursing worldwide, called Triple Impact, which led to the launch of the Nursing Now campaign.


The ICN’s Global Nursing Leadership Institute offers senior and strategic leadership development at the executive level for nurses. The programme draws on the expertise of international expert faculty, allowing participants to review and enhance their national and global leadership skills and behaviours within a collaborative and stimulating learning culture.

Registration for the 2019 programme is open between 2-31 January 2019.