Dr. Laurie GottliebI attended the 25th Quadrennial Congress of ICN (International Council of Nurses) that took place in Melbourne, Australia, May 18-23. ICN is a federation of over 130 national nursing associations, representing more than 16 million nurses. Their mission is to ensure that nursing is represented worldwide, to advance the profession, and influence healthcare policy.

Dr. Judith Shamian was elected ICN’s 27th president in its 100-year history. This election culminates a very illustrious career of influencing the direction of nursing and shaping health and health care. Dr. Shamian has been involved in international work for the past 30 years and has held major leadership positions in nursing service agencies, education, government, and policy. Most recently, she served as past president of Canadian Nurses Association.

Dr. Shamian has been an enthusiastic proponent of Strengths-Based Nursing. She has shared her belief in this approach with many nursing leaders worldwide. In fact, she was one of the first to review the book Strengths-Based Nursing Care: Health and Healing for Person and Family (Springer, 2013) and recognized its potential as a “game changer” for nursing and healthcare. In her review of the book, she wrote:

Strengths-Based Nursing Care“This book is the highlight of the decade for me. I am comfortable in saying that this is one of the most important transformational books on nursing since Florence Nightingale's seminal book, Notes on Nursing... I hope that this book will become the Notes On Nursing of the 21st century. It has the power to transform nursing practice and with it, to transform the delivery of health care and the health care system. I also hope this book becomes the permanent companion of all nurses — for those who are on the journey to becoming nurses and for those who care for patients all over the world. This book will provide nurses with the inspiration and guidance to care for clients and patients in the most sensitive and respectful ways.”

As Dr. Shamian and others have told me, they are attracted to Strengths-Based Nursing because it shifts the preoccupation from problems and deficits to what is working and focuses on what the body, person, family, and community do best. It is an approach to care that empowers people and communities to search out and create conditions that facilitate growth and thriving. It empowers people to take charge of their own health, find solutions to their existing problems, and make the changes they desire. Strengths-Based Nursing generates hope because it is built on possibilities — what is and what could be.

For Dr. Shamian, Strengths-Based Nursing reconnects to Nightingale’s vision ‘to put the patient in the best condition for nature to act on him”.  Whereas the medical model, with its deficit focus, is well suited to addressing medicine’s mandate of diagnosis and treatment of disease, Strengths-Based Nursing better fits nursing’s mandate of health and healing. In Strengths-Based Nursing, health is about creating wholeness; helping individuals and families develop their capacities to adapt to change and live more fully and with purpose. Healing is the process of restoring wholeness through creating environments that support the body’s innate healing mechanisms. Thus, Strengths-Based Nursing gives nurses a unique approach that complements medicine and in so doing strengthens nurses’ identity and pride in being a nurse.