GNLI Alumni Speak Out - Part 8

16 January 2020



“I would encourage all nurse leaders to apply for GNLI. With GNLI in your pocket you feel obliged or morally responsible to do something to improve the situation for nurses. And you know that someone will be proud of you for doing it.”


Karen Bjøro, who is a member of the ICN Board of Directors, has just stepped down from her role as second vice president of the Norwegian Nurses Organization.

Dr Bjøro spoke to ICN about its Global Nursing Leadership Institute (GNLI) programme, which she attended in Geneva in 2016, and the impact it has had on her career.

“As the Norwegian Nurses Organisation’s representative to ICN, I received the 2014 GNLI call for candidates and realised it would be important that my organisation send nurses to the programme. We ended up sending two candidates that first year both of whom were very pleased when they came home, so I decided to apply myself for a subsequent programme.

‘Another reason I applied was because I was going to be a candidate for ICN Board membership in 2017 - I was subsequently elected - and was interested in getting to know the programmes that ICN offers.

‘I was very engaged in the programme while I was taking part. You have to be prepared to be open and give of yourself in order to make the most of the time involved.

‘I have been engaged in international nursing for many years and I enjoy meeting nurses from other countries. However, GNLI was a unique experience in which you get to know the other participants from a nursing policy perspective. All of the participants are there because they are interested in improving their advocacy skills and we all wanted to have a greater impact on nursing and health policy in our home countries.

‘It was empowering to get to know nurses from around the world. Many of them presented case studies or stories about how they had attempted to have an impact. It was inspiring to hear how creative nurses are, seeing the challenges and creating innovative ways to get their message across.

‘As part of the programme we visited the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters and I learned quite a bit about international policy development within WHO, and how ICN is a key stakeholder and advocate for nurses. In the past, nurses were not generally well represented at WHO, although this has now changed.

‘I learned how the WHO functions as an organisation at different levels, and how and when to have an impact. I also learned important lessons about how to approach people to get your message across.

‘The knowledge I gained about the WHO was important when I later attended its governing body, the World Health Assembly, as part of ICN’s delegation. We learned how to write a policy brief and how to present it. Since then, I have developed policy statements that have been presented World Health Assembly and the WHO Regional Committee.

‘Being on the GNLI programme also taught me a bit about myself. I now appreciate that I have good communication skills, and I acknowledge that I have the ability to think strategically and carry out plans. I developed self-confidence with regard to taking the initiative, which meant that later I was able to help nursing to influence the election of the WHO regional director for Europe.

‘GNLI helped me have the courage to act! Prior to joining the programme, I had quite a bit of knowledge. But what really makes a difference is feeling that you are a part of something bigger than yourself – that gives you the drive and support you need to move forward.

‘My knowledge of the GNLI programme is important as an ICN Board member: it means I can support the programme from the inside. ‘I have recommended GNLI to others and have encouraged the development of a cadre of nurses who have attended GNLI. I have participated in identifying candidates from my country to attend GNLI and motivated them to attend. The challenge now is to connect them and develop a network of GNLI fellows who give response to each other.

‘Ideally, I would like GNLI to be available to more nurses so that we can develop a critical mass of leaders who can do advocacy work on behalf of our profession. I think it would be great if GNLI could be offered at a regional level - we could be much more powerful if there were more fellows from the same region, and we could still gain the global perspective at international events.

‘In the future, I would like ICN to develop something like GNLI for nursing students – nurses need to start to develop their skills in health policy much earlier in their careers.

‘To conclude, I would encourage all nurse leaders to apply for GNLI. With GNLI in your pocket you feel obliged or morally responsible to do something to improve the situation for nurses. And you know that someone will be proud of you for doing it.”

Listen to snippets of the audio from the interview - 1 & 2