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The Evolving Role of Nurses in European Healthcare

10.04.2013, 10:45 GMT

To coincide with associated event, “Exploring the contribution of Nurses to healthcare in Europe”, Dr Anne Marie Ryan, Chief Education Officer An Bord Altranais (Nursing and Midwives Board of Ireland NMBI) writes about the current and future role of Nurses in EU-wide healthcare.

The role of the nurse in providing health care is changing. This is being driven by, among other things, the need for governments to reduce spending on health systems and by our ageing populations. Nurses play a critical role in providing health care not only in traditional settings such as hospitals and long-term care institutions, but increasingly in primary care (especially offering care to the chronically ill) and in home care settings.

The nursing profession has significantly evolved in the last 3 decades with community based healthcare, the use of more complex therapies and constantly developing technology presupposing a capacity for higher responsibilities for nurses. In particular nurse training, the organisation of which might still differ according to national traditions, should provide a more robust and more output oriented assurance that the professional has acquired certain knowledge and skills during the training, and is able to apply at least the minimum competences in order to pursue the minimum activities relevant to the profession.

Nurse training should provide a more robust and more output oriented assurance that the professional has acquired certain knowledge and skills during the training.

The objective of our symposium is to review some of these challenges facing the delivery of healthcare across Europe and the impact on nursing. With the imminent passing of the modernised Directive 2005/36/EC, we will be entering a new era for the profession within the EU. Directive 2005/36/EC sets out the automatic recognition for professions in EU countries for which the minimum training conditions have been harmonised – such as Health professionals.

The representatives of “Competent Authorities” as defined in the legislation, the educators of nurses and as well as the managers of services, have an obligation to make sure that this new legislation works well so that nurses can maximise their career opportunities, subject to the overriding responsibility for patient welfare.  We are hoping that by the end of the symposium, we will be in a position to move towards some sort of platform for the joint discussion of future responses to the Directive.  When the Directive was originally passed, it made provision for a Standing Committee for each of the professions and currently in its absence a new platform to engage nurses and the stakeholders to nursing will be explored.  

The Irish Presidency Programme aims to advance the development of innovative and sustainable health systems under the Health for Growth agenda. Increasing access to better and sustainable health systems for its citizens and protecting citizens from cross border health threats is central to the programme’s public health policy. And the evolving contribution of Nurses in this environment is a crucial tool of its policy progress.

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