Helsinki conference a rewarding learning experience for advanced practice nurses from around the world


The Helsinki advanced practice nursing conference has given some 740 nurses a welcome chance to network and exchange research findings and experiences from more than 40 countries where the roles and statuses of AP nurses are highly varied.

by Fran Weaver

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), 18th-20th August 2014, has been the potential for advanced nursing practice to expand access to health care and improve health outcomes.

Conference manager Anna Suutarla, head of international affairs at the Finnish Nurses Association (FNA), who have hosted the conference, feels that participants have greatly appreciated the chance to meet their counterparts from other countries and share their ideas.

“The atmosphere during the conference has been great. The spirit of a common nursing ethos of caring, sharing and a willingness to learn has shone through strongly,” she says. “A lot is happening in the advanced practice nursing profession today, and many countries are keen to develop new roles for experienced and skilled nurses as they reshape their health care systems, often under austerity budgets, while facing problems such as ageing populations and rising levels of chronic non-communicable disease.”

Suutarla particularly appreciates the chance to obtain hard evidence that APN-based solutions can result in favourable outcomes. “Such findings enable us to demonstrate to policy-makers that by making investments in training and professional development now, they can achieve favourable results and savings in the longer term,” she explains.

Suutarla is pleased that the conference has also highlighted vital topics including issues related to regulation in different parts of the world, and the fundamental role of ethics in nursing. “As the keynote speaker Helena Leino-Kilpi reminded us, advanced ethical competence is crucial in advanced nursing roles in addition to advanced clinical competence,” she says.

Asian connections

The Helsinki event has particularly attracted many nursing experts from the Far East, including more than 100 participants from Taiwan.

Professor Tai Jen, deputy director of Taiwan’s largest nursing school, at National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, explains that nursing practitioners have already been working in Taiwan’s hospitals for ten years, but their numbers are currently growing fast, and academic training programmes are now being stepped up and diversified. “In Taiwan we are also having to cope with an ageing population, so in future there will also be a need for nursing practitioners working in communities and with home care,” she says

The government and major university hospitals have provided welcome support to encourage nursing experts and students to come to Helsinki and find out how other countries are using advanced practice nurses and organising related research.

“Nursing practitioners in Taiwan are very actively involved in research, so it’s also very useful for our experts and students to meet colleagues from other countries and find out what they’re doing. We can get ideas for our future work, while also sharing our own results,” says Tai Jen. “I’ve particularly valued the interesting specialist presentations given by the keynote speakers in Helsinki.”

Benefits for Finnish nurses

Anna Suutarla feels that the conference sessions have given the more than 260 participating nurses from the host country Finland plenty to think about on issues such as training and potential workplace roles for APNs.

“In Finland, though we still don’t really have a good Finnish translation for the term APN, we can be quite proud of what nurses in different advanced roles are doing already. But at the same time in some countries their roles are even more highly developed, while in others their roles are only now being initiated. Because of this here at the conference there’s been a lot of giving and learning in both directions,” says Suutarla. “It’s been really great that so many of our Finnish colleagues have taken this opportunity for fruitful networking.”

According to Suutarla, the knowledge and ideas gained by Finnish conference participants will provide a good basis for the future development of APN in Finland. “'This is all thanks to the vision of the President of the FNA, Merja Merasto, who was the leading figure behind Finland’s application to host the 2014 ICN APN network conference.”

The next international conference of the ICN’s INP/APN network will be held in Hong Kong in 2016.