Helsinki conference focuses on the role of advanced nursing practice in a changing world

18.8.2014

The potential for advanced nursing practice to expand access to health care and improve health outcomes is the main theme of the 8th Conference of the International Nurse Practitioner/Advanced Practice Nursing Network of the International Council of Nurses (ICN INP/APNN), which opened today (18th August) in Helsinki, Finland.

by Fran Weaver

The conference has attracted some 740 participants from more than 40 countries. During the opening session Merja Merasto, President of the Finnish Nurses Association, who are hosting the conference, emphasised that the rapidly changing operating environment for health care providers around the world is imposing new challenges.

“To cope with change we must dare to move out of our comfort zones, and build up brave new forms of cooperation and dialogue with different stakeholders,” she said. “I hope this conference will strengthen the ways we work together to realise the common aspiration of nurses worldwide: to be able to fully draw on their skills in the treatment and care of patients.”

Advanced practice nurses in demand in Finland

Former Finnish health minister Paula Risikko highlighted the urgency of finding a future role for advanced practice nurses in the context of the ongoing radical structural reform of the provision of social services and health care in the host country Finland. As in many other countries, the cost-effectiveness of health care is crucial for Finland, since the country faces problems including an ageing population and the increasing prevalence of non-communicable and lifestyle diseases.  

“In developing our social and health care services, we should boldly draw on the skills of advanced practice nurses. There is ample scope for this in our legislation, and the experiences we have already gained are positive,” said Risikko, who has a nursing background herself. Finland is targeting improvements in health care aspects including mobile care units, nurses’ consultations and e-health solutions.   

Finnish nurses are already gaining new responsibilities. New legislation enabling nurses to issue prescriptions in certain cases was passed in 2010, and more than 150 nurses have now obtained the qualifications giving them the limited right to prescribe medicines.

Merja Merasto explained that trial schemes in several health centres and three health districts where advanced practice nurses have been utilised have led to benefits including enhanced patient outcomes and more reasonable workloads for health care providers. “About 80% of respondents to a health ministry survey, including physicians, nurses, patients and planners, felt that using advanced practice nurses improved access to health care, quality, and patient satisfaction,” she explained.

Seeking new forms of collaboration

Anna Green, chairperson of the ICN INP/APNN, added that in a rapidly changing world health care professionals need to be constantly aware of opportunities, challenges and risks, as exemplified by the recent ebola outbreak in West Africa. She also emphasised the need to keep close contact with stakeholders including physicians to ensure that everyone fully understands the role of AP nurses and the benefits they can bring.

“We must find new ways to collaborate in a networked world and challenge ourselves to expand our services as advanced practice nursing continues to grow,” she says.

The President of the Finnish Nurses Association Merja Merasto. Foto by Tuomo Antikainen.
The President of the Finnish Nurses Association Merja Merasto. Foto by Tuomo Antikainen.