ICN President Annette Kennedy’s whistle-stop tour of South America reveals challenges nurses face across the continent
ICN President, Annette Kennedy, travelled to Uruguay and Argentina on a brief tour of South America in October.
She spoke at a conference of the Pan American Federation of Nursing Professionals (FEPPEN) in Montevideo, Uruguay, which was attended by more than 1,200 nurses, and met representatives from 14 of ICN’s National Nursing Associations.
In her speech, Ms Kennedy gave a presentation about ICN’s activities and spoke about the Nursing Now campaign and plans for the 2020 Year of the Nurse and Midwife celebrations. FEPPEN is 50 years old next year, so the celebrations will have a double significance for nurses in South America.
While in Uruguay, Ms Kennedy met with FEPPEN President José Jerez and Presidents of NNA members of FEPPEN who informed her of the many challenges faced by nurses in South America, including the general shortage of nurses, problems with recruitment and retention, and high attrition rates among student nurses, which can mean that as many as 70% of nursing students fail to complete their pre-registration education in some countries.
Ms Kennedy said:
“I was extremely impressed by the work that the National Nursing Associations and their members are doing, often in difficult conditions. As always, nurses are a beacon that shines brightly, even when the situations they find themselves working in are far from ideal.
However, there is an urgent need to build nursing capacity in South American nations and a number of important issues must be addressed.
Salaries in some countries are below the minimum wage, which means some nurses are having to have two jobs to make ends meet, and some nurses are being forced to work without pay to be able to retain their skills.
Investment in nurse education and leadership is essential including a chief nurse in the Ministry of Health in every country.”
Ms Kennedy held discussions with FEPPEN member associations about agreed priorities and mutual issues, and about adopting a strategy to address the many issues under discussion, which ICN will work on closely with FEPPEN in the coming years.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ms Kennedy went with the Argentinian Federation of Nurses to the Ministry of Health to discuss vital issues facing the profession, including the need for a Chief Nursing Officer in Argentina, the shortage of nurses, problems with retaining nurses, poor pay and conditions and the high attrition rate among nursing students. The fact that registered degree-level nurses in Argentina are outnumbered by technicians/associate nurses was also discussed.
Ms Kennedy also visited a simulation centre for nurses where educational apps for mobile phones and tablet computers are being developed and spoke to 60 nurses and educators about ICN’s work.
Ms Kennedy said:
“In Uruguay and in Argentina I was treated with the utmost hospitality, and I would like to thank the National Nurses Associations and the nurses I met for looking after me so well. The publication of the World Health Organization’s State of the World’s Nursing report will be very important for all nurses in South America. It is crucial that it provide a true picture of the nursing world.”