The reason for establishing the Nursing and Midwifery Leadership Network (NMLN) was a sincere desire to bring nursing and midwifery leaders together to draw on their collective experiences and expertise. Leaders across all nursing and midwifery organisations gathered for a series of conversations to explore key questions about the future of our professions and the environment within which we provide care. 

The Network is convened by IADNAM (The Irish Association of Directors of Nursing and Midwifery) and the partner organisations include The Chief Nurses Office (Department of Health), Office of the Nursing and Midwifery Services Directorate (ONMSD – Health Services Executive), The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), Royal College of Surgeons, Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland, Heads of the Deans and Faculties of Nursing and Midwifery, including UCC and UCD in particular.

These leaders were keen to not only support colleagues working in very challenging environments but also to ensure the professions of Nursing and Midwifery thrive and  are at the forefront of crafting new models for health and social care systems in the years ahead.
What will this future look like? What direction will ‘the systems’ in wellbeing, health and illness take? How should we structure our professions so that we have greater impact and sustain our professional credibility and standing within health and our contribution to our communities? How do we build capacity to work in partnership with our colleagues in our respective workplaces and with people who require our care and clinical expertise? Are we prepared to use our collective voice(s) as leaders and take up an advocacy role when required?  These were just some of the future uncertainties upon which we deliberated.

The process we engaged in was extremely dynamic and challenging at times. We were determined to incorporate the totality of the themes that mattered to us, while also accepting that we held disparate views that had the power to both unite and challenge the very core of what we believe.

For example, the debates about the impact of the traditional hierarchical structures in nursing and midwifery, or inter-professional rivalries around patient care are important in the context of identifying impediments and  improving the overall patient experience. Our ‘Big Group Conversations’ and all the associated work allow us to explore new ways of considering the future roles of nursing and midwifery as key components in enabling people to ‘live well’ at all stages of life.

This approach is not always popular in our profession which often assumes a rather narrow view of ‘tangible output’ and ‘action’. We are proud that throughout the project we are reflecting a true thought-leadership model and a commitment to positivity and change-making with a collective appreciative inquiry approach. The series of conversations on the themes outlined above are described in “the Power of Conversation: Nursing and Midwifery Leadership in Action’. 

Such an enormous and challenging project would not have been possible without the successful and meaningful engagement with advocacy groups,  nurses and midwives and other health professionals as well members of the public,  from across a wide range of disciplines and across the entire country. We are extremely grateful for this support to maintain the momentum over the last three years. 

We are thoroughly indebted to our colleagues in Corporate Community who created the environment for our Big Group Conversations and motivated us to maintain the impetus to complete this first phase of our deliberations. It has been a very exciting and energising process and we look forward to expanding our networks as we involve nurses and midwives from all areas of practice. Our conversations will continue to challenge our current thinking about key aspects of the future of health care in Ireland.
If you would like to join us in our next phase of our work, please get in touch with any of the members of the Network or tweet us on #NMLNetwork

Mary Brosnan and Paul Gallagher, IADNAM,  Mary Wynne, ONMSD, Elizabeth Adams, INMO