Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Nurses’ identity in medicine addressed at 31st Annual International Nursing and Midwifery Conference

23 February 2012
Health systems are failing nurses who are losing their professional identity, according to two decades worth of research into nursing policy carried out by Professor Michael Traynor, Professor of Nursing Policy, School of Health, Middlesex University who spoke at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) 31st Annual Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery Conference.

Faculty of Nursing Conference Photo 1

Prof Eilis McGovern, President RCSI, Dr Áine Colgan Dean of the Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery RCSI, Ms Elizabeth Adams, Guest Lecturer & Honorary Fellow 

Approximately 170 nurses and midwives attended the RCSI's 31st Annual International Nursing and Midwifery Conference entitled ‘Nursing and Midwifery Practice in a Global Community: Collaborating and Networking for the Future", which is taking place today, 23rd February 2012.

Speakers from North America, the United Kingdom, Europe and Ireland delivered presentations on the professional identity of nurses in medicine.

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Dr Áine Colgan, Dean of the Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery, Mr Neil Colgan, Ms Annette Kennedy, Ms. Marie Keane

Dr. Karen Morin of the University of Milwaukee started the conference with her opening address entitled "In Good Times and Bad, Collaboration is Key". Delivering the keynote address, Dr. Morin of the University of Milwaukee argued that ‘nurses are often the first to be targeted when health care systems are faced with financial constraints. However, recent national reports perceive them to be key contributors to improving the health of the nation'.

Faculty of Nursing Conference photo 2

Marie Kearney, Prof Seamus Cowman, Margaret McCarthy, Mary McCarthy

Professor Michael Traynor delivered a plenary address entitled, "Nurses' talk about powerlessness and victimhood; slavery and jouissance" based on the theory that some nurses become passive participants in care failings as a result of poor job satisfaction caused by impossible expectations. Professor Traynor said that nursing, "has a religious calling and to talk about being a victim can be positively understood as being part of the duty of self sacrifice. There is an acceptability to be a victim in nursing," he added.

Based on research compiled over the last two decades, Professor Traynor's research focuses on policy issues inspired by the professional identity of nurses and medicine. Speaking about the exploitation of nurses in the health system, Professor Traynor said that there is an ‘impossibly idealised expectation' among nurses about what their duty in medicine is and when this is not realised, nurses feel that they are being prevented by something beyond outside of the system.

He also said that the stance of powerlessness that characterises much of the nursing workforce makes nurses particularly flexible in their duties making it convenient for health systems not to tackle this issue.

 Nursing Conference

Mary O'Rourke, Maureen Duff, Roy Duff, John Cummins, Nora Cummins

Also addressing the conference was Dr. John Adams from the Anglia Ruskin University, UK who spoke about nursing ethics in Ireland based on the beliefs of Percy Fitzpatrick, MD. Using Dr. Kirkpatrick's approach, Dr. Adams spoke about the need for life-long learning and an emphasis on personal cleanliness and patient confidentiality. He also said that in the future, state registration might prove necessary if nurses do not maintain the ethical standards expected of them. Dr. Adams recommended that knowledge of nursing history can increase understanding of the issues faced by current practitioners.

Prof. Seamus Cowman, Head of the Faculty and School of Nursing and Midwifery at RCSI said: ‘The annual international conference is the longest established nursing conference of its kind in Europe. It's an exciting opportunity for Irish and international healthcare professionals to come together and discuss the very latest global research, knowledge and thinking and work together to optimise our healthcare systems. It is encouraging to see an increasing number of Irish nurses and midwives presenting each year which is a positive indication for the future of the profession in Ireland.'

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Prize Winners Liz Tuohy, Sarah Miner, Dr Aíne Colgan, Mary Reidy, Emer Shanley with Prof Prof Seamus Cowman,