By Jennifer Trainor, Key Correspondent for the Irish Forum for Global Health


For five days, at the Fourth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, delegates were presented a variety of topics on the theme of building and improving the capacity of future healthcare personnel. Specialists from different backgrounds presented on topics from the delivery of healthcare in rural areas, approaches to increase the capacity, accountability, protection, and retention of health workers, women’s empowerment, the importance of youth engagement, and everything in between. Regardless of the topic, there was always one universal take-home message: looking ahead. At the end of the conference, there was a universal feeling of hope.

As a nurse, I was humbled to listen and interact with nurses from a variety of backgrounds. The sessions were always engaging and informative. Even more, it was speaking to fellow nursing colleagues that truly touched me the most. When asking the traditional question of a person’s profession to the person sitting beside me, the response would almost always be, “Me too! I’m also a nurse!” It’s with that enthusiasm that also comes the “I understand” nod. That nod being a quiet understanding and reflection on past experiences.

During one of those sessions on protecting health workers, I happened to sit beside a particular woman. She listened intently, and would nod at some of the accounts of violence against health workers. Even before we spoke, one could tell that she had a story. She was listening carefully. Afterward, she asked me what I did for a living, and her response was not the enthusiastic response I am used to receiving. She did give me that “I understand” nod. She was quiet in her response “I too was a nurse. But I could not stay in it.” She did not elaborate on why she left the profession, but would turn out to be a major point of reflection throughout the conference. Somewhere in her career, a moment or perhaps many moments prompted her to leave the profession

Her words stayed with me, and I reflected on why these conferences are important. It is a way to show what is happening in global healthcare and how we are addressing these issues. The speakers are showing that they know what the reality is.  Statistics, research, and personal accounts drive the healthcare field to do better. Conferences show that we can and that we are.  If we can help nurses to not feel alone, to improve working conditions, and protect them, regardless of where they’re working, then perhaps we can catch nurses before they leave and change the inner dialogue to “I couldn’t stay” to “yes, I can do this”.

I was proud to see my profession represented this week. I was proud to hear about nursing research, their inter-professional and international collaborations, and future policies being implemented to address and improve capacity, staffing and retention. Many nurses feel under-appreciated, a sentiment I have shared. Not this week. I have never been prouder. Let us look ahead to a hopefully bright future.


November 26th, 2017

Jennifer Trainor is a registered nurse from Montreal, Canada, with experience in neonatal and obstetrical nursing. She is currently pursuing a PhD in nursing and global health at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, with a focus in maternal and child health. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys SCUBA diving and horseback riding.


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