"Nurses are pack people,” my friend Grace observed. Finally—a way to describe us…we work for the good of the community over individual successes. We aren’t trying to stand out in the crowd. In my experience, nurses find each other in a crowd and congregate together in a pack.
The field of Global Health is a good example of nurse “pack” behavior. Although there is sometimes competition in global health for funding and for collaborations amongst other groups or disciplines, global health nurses seek each other out, feed each other information, provide support, and look for areas to collaborate. Nurses provide the vast majority of health care globally, yet we are disproportionately underrepresented in leadership positions. It is a collective “win” when one of our own moves into a global leadership position, with congratulatory emails flooding in from all around the globe.
Nursing has found its way onto the global stage. It feels like a slow process sometimes, but I believe that we are making progress and the momentum is increasing. But a major obstacle remains: Recognized in-country nurse leaders do not have a voice in the poor countries where global health programs are implimented. This must change.
There has been an unwritten rule in global health nursing: You bring to the table a nurse leader from the country in which you are working—that is the beauty of our “pack”. It is our shared responsibility now to advocate, cajole, insist, and convince those in Global Health leadership positions to recognize and abide by that rule, to include in-country nurses in the decision-making arena.
May 6 starts International Nurses Week, a week of celebration that culminates on May 12, which is the birthday of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale. This is a time when nurses around the world take the time to pause and recognize each other and our contributions to global health. We provide care for the sick and the well, help bring babies into the world and also ease the suffering of those who are dying. Thirty-five million strong, we are everywhere. The time is now to rally each other, our patients, and our supporters to recognize and value the role that nurses play in providing health care globally.