Three Questions for David Benton

David BentonDavid Benton is CEO of the International Council of Nurses, a federation of more than 130 national nurses’ associations representing millions of nurses worldwide. Benton visited CapacityPlus lead partner IntraHealth International to speak at its 30th anniversary. (Responses are excerpted from a longer interview.)

What are some ways that international organizations and projects, such as CapacityPlus, can support the work of nurses’ associations at the national level?
One of the responsibilities that international organizations need to have is actually to talk to one another […], better align our actions in a way that really helps the associations in country. […] We can help to establish relationships, because sometimes—for example—the nursing association might have a very good relationship with the Ministry of Health but hasn’t had a great deal of experience in talking to ministries of education or finance. One of the things we can bring to the table is convening the broader stakeholder group, and supporting and role-modeling some of the behaviors necessary to actually influence in a coherent way.

Can you cite an example of a productive partnership between a national nurses’ association and an international organization?
[The Wellness Center in Swaziland] has become a flagship activity for us. We were able to partner the Swaziland National Nursing Association [with other groups] to look at the whole issue of how you provide access to health workers and their families, in relation initially just to HIV services, but as the service has evolved and developed, to a broader range of services. We facilitated everyone bringing a contribution to the table […]. I think that’s one of the important messages to be learned from this: when everyone has got a stake in it, then they work so much harder to ensure the success of the program.

From the outset, we’ve looked to see how this service can be self sustaining, and therefore upfront saying the financial investment that’s being put in here has a profile which will taper over time, we will help you work through that, and how you transition and manage that—and increasingly the Ministry of Health has taken on those responsibilities so the service is truly sustainable, and is now offering services to some 80% of health workers in the country. It’s had a fundamental effect on stabilizing out-migration […] and it’s been held up as an example that others wish to emulate. It’s a fabulous example of how working together can achieve so much more.

Please give us an example of how communications and advocacy can be used to support nurses’ associations.
When we were in Durban last year we arranged a whole series of interviews with nurse leaders from Uganda’s nursing organization and others, asking questions of them in terms of where they saw nursing going, what they thought some of the challenges are. The technology is now readily available, but to have it edited, etc., sometimes outweighs the capacity of an association that is perhaps working part time. So some of these very concrete things that you can do, capitalizing on meetings that you’ve already arranged, where people can then take away materials that they can then use themselves, is a good example of how you can facilitate nursing making a difference and influencing more widely.