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RCN members vote to rejoin ICN



The RCN membership today voted to rejoin the International Council of Nurses at the annual general meeting.

The resolution to rejoin the International Council of Nurses (ICN), a global network of more than 130 national nursing associations representing more than 27 million nurses, passed with 84.7% (7,613 members) of the vote.        

The RCN initially left the organisation in 2013, but the We Are Global Nurses group has led the campaign to sign back up since 2017. The RCN agreed to consult members at the next annual general meeting (AGM) on rejoining in October last year.

Jess Sainsbury, a community mental health nurse and member of the We Are Global Nurse campaign team, told Nursing in Practice: ‘We will now be able to influence and contribute on a global scale, all while learning from our international colleagues. Collaboration is key and this is just the beginning.’

Lou Cahill, also part of the group, said: ‘Nurses working in the UK reject the trend in isolationism. The pandemic has shown us we need to work globally to tackle health issues and with a worldwide shortage of registered nurses, being part of the global conversation is going to more important than ever.’

High profile nurses in recent months have voiced their support for rejoining including chief nursing officer for England Ruth May and chief nursing officer for Northern Ireland Charlotte McArdle. The RCN Interational Committee also recommended returning to the group.

The RCN initially left the group in 2013 because of concerns about membership fees.

In 2013, the full cost of ICN membership for the RCN was £614,470, based on the size of membership, which stood at 416,077. The RCN finance team reportedly said at the AGM today that membership would still cost around £1 a member.

Geoff Earl, RCN Council member for Scotland, shared a statement at the AGM against rejoining. He previously argued on Twitter that the RCN should not spend money on rejoining when the ICN does not recognise nursing support workers or nursing associates.

On today’s vote, he told Nursing in Practice: ‘During what was a good debate, we also heard from members who still retained many of the concerns expressed when the RCN left the ICN; including from some who were in favour of re-joining.

‘Now, Council must take forward this vote and find a way to implement this decision in a way that can be supported by as large a proportion of the membership as possible both now and in the future.’

Shaun Williams, a student learning disability nurse at Keele University and student member of the RCN Council, told Nursing in Practice he is ‘chuffed to bits’ that the resolution to rejoin the ICN passed but warned ‘the debate fell short of the standards the College should aspire to’.

He continued: ‘Having stated that I have been critical of both pro-and-con camps throughout this process the levels of criticality, engagement, and depth of balanced debate has been lacking. I feel we all need to raise our game when it comes to future issues of such magnate – we owe this to our members.’

Mr Williams called for future debates among members to contain more detailed information, as well as better communication and appraisals of evidence.

At the AGM, members also voted to reinstate the cycle of half of RCN Council being elected every two years at the Council elections due to be held in 2023, after the rule was not followed during the transition to a smaller Council as agreed at the AGM in 2016.