RCN International

Our international work

We represent UK nursing in Europe and internationally

The RCN works with UK, European and wider international alliances and stakeholders to influence health and nursing policy globally.

The Government has announced a new scheme which will allow EU nationals to remain in the UK after Brexit. Read more about this here

Join our campaign for a People's Vote on Brexit

The RCN is campaigning for a People's Vote on the final Brexit deal. Click here to download your selfie board and get involved.

Current international issues and projects

The RCN and Brexit

Following the vote on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, the RCN is calling on the Government to secure the future of EU nurses as new figures reveal the extent to which the health service relies on them. More than 33,000 EU trained nurses are registered to work in the UK, which is more than the total number of nurses currently working in Wales. It comes as research reveals the scale of challenges facing the NHS nursing workforce, with one in three nurses due to retire in the next 10 years and a lack of homegrown staff to fill the gap.

The RCN believes the Government must take urgent action to develop a coherent and sustainable workforce strategy for the future that recognises the critical contribution of overseas nurses as well as the pressing need to educate, recruit and retain homegrown nursing staff.

Read a guide for RCN members on Brexit and the implications for European Economic Area (EEA) workers, students and family members

Read the RCN's response to the Health Select Committee's Brexit inquiry

Brexit update

The RCN has written a series of short briefings on five key areas affecting nursing. These are:

1. The impact of Brexit on workforce sustainability;

2. Maintaining robust education and professional regulatory frameworks;

3. Ensuring that we continue to address public health threats collaboratively – particularly those crossing borders;

4. Safeguarding decent working conditions, health and safety at work and employment rights; and

5. Maintaining collaboration for research and learning across Europe.

We have rated progress on each of these priorities as either RED, AMBER or GREEN. Red indicates that there has been no firm commitment made by the UK Government on this issue and how to resolve it. Amber indicates some UK Government commitment or statement but no agreement on practical application with the EU. Green indicates a firm commitment from the UK Government and the EU including on practical implementation.

A brief overview describing these priorities, our concerns and what action we want taken is available here.  

Securing our international workforce post-Brexit

Given the continuing global nursing shortage and rising demand for health and care services, the UK needs to be able to attract nursing staff with the right skills and attitudes to work and remain in the sector. Our latest briefing sets out the key principles which we think should underpin the UK's post-Brexit immigration system.

You can also tell us directly what you think of the UK's current immigration system, including what works well and what you want to see changed. Your responses will form the basis for our continued lobbying work with the Home Office. You can access the survey here: https://surveys.rcn.org.uk/s/RCNPBIsurvey/

RCN partnership with the Zambian Union of Nurses Organisations (ZUNO)

The RCN-ZUNO Partnership Project is a collaboration between the RCN and the ZUNO, funded by THET through the DFID Health Partnerships Scheme, with the support of the Zambian Ministry of Health.

The project has focused on strengthening ZUNO as the voice of nursing in Zambia so that it can influence nursing policy and improve nursing practice, with emphasis on developing leadership and advocacy skills. The RCN has supported ZUNO to carry out work at three hospitals focusing on building multidisciplinary teamwork and communication to improve the implementation of the World Health Organisation's (WHO's) safe surgery checklist. In total, 226 nurses, porters, anaesthetists, surgeons, student nurses and nurse tutors have been trained in adapting and using the checklist, supported by ZUNO and 40 Safe Surgery Champions.

ZUNO update

Following a series of RCN-ZUNO training workshops and mentoring, 71% of participants felt there have been major improvements in teamwork while 80% of participants felt that the consistency with which their team carries out the checklist has changed and that they now do it more frequently. This has improved the reputation of ZUNO as a professional association with hospital management and other professional associations.
The RCN and ZUNO were keen to build upon the progress made in the first two-year phase by ensuring the changes made are fully sustainable and embedded in national structures and processes. Phase 2 is running from 1st April 2017 to 31st December 2018. So far ZUNO has worked with the nursing regulator and educational institutions to update the national theatre nursing curriculum. This was launched in March 2018 and now includes the WHO's Safer Surgery Checklist in peri-operative care.
ZUNO is now recognised as a provider of continuing professional development (CPD). With support from the RCN, it is developing modules covering safer surgery as well as management and leadership. These will be offered to nurses across Zambia. ZUNO's work on safer surgery in hospitals has raised their profile as a professional voice for nursing which has helped them grow their membership and benefit patients. For more information on the ZUNO project you can contact international@rcn.org.uk

Introducing the Nursing Now Campaign

The Nursing Now campaign aims to raise the status and profile of nursing globally. Run in collaboration with the WHO and the International Council of Nurses (ICN), Nursing Now seeks to empower nurses to take their place at the heart of tackling 21st Century health challenges.

Nursing Now will run to the end of 2020 – the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth . It aims to improve perceptions of nurses, enhance their influence and maximise their contributions to ensuring that everyone everywhere has access to health and healthcare. The RCN is a key backer of the campaign

Nursing Now has five key objectives:

1. Support greater investment in improving education, professional development, standards, regulation and employment conditions for nurses;

2. Increase and improve dissemination of effective and innovative practice in nursing;

3. Realise greater influence for nurses and midwives on global and national health policy, as part of broader efforts to ensure health workforces are more involved in decision-making;

4. Get more nurses into leadership positions with more opportunities for development at all levels; and

5. Generate more evidence for policy and decision makers about where nursing can have the greatest impact, what is stopping nurses from reaching their full potential and how to address this.

More information on the campaign can be accessed at: http://www.nursingnow.org/our-aims/

Working Internationally: A guide to humanitarian and development work for nurses and midwives

The RCN has collaborated with the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and VSO to produce advice for nurses and midwives who want to work internationally, both in sustainable development and humanitarian programmes. 

Download a copy of the latest guidance

Read about RCN member David Atherton's experience of volunteering abroad

RCN International Nursing Network

The International Nursing Network brings together health care practitioners interested in the field of international health care. Members of this community include registered practitioners, health care assistants, students and volunteers.

This groups enables RCN members interested in international humanitarian health care and development work to share experiences and support each other with practical advice.

Read more about the International Nursing Network

Visit the International Nursing Network Facebook group

International alliances

Contact the RCN

For more information on international issues, please contact international@rcn.org.uk