The Vienna Declaration On Nursing – 30 Years On

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration on Nursing, which was a turning point in global medicine. In the new era of healthcare for all, the Declaration pledged to support nurses within their new role, allowing them to take more responsibility in decision-making regarding patient care plans, and to empower patients and their families.

The Vienna Declaration on Nursing called for a change in attitudes towards the profession, supporting nurses to achieve their full potential.

Reflecting on the 30 years that have passed, has the Vienna Declaration on Nursing really had an impact on nursing, and does it still have standing today?

What is the Vienna Declaration on Nursing?

The Vienna Declaration on Nursing was created after the Conference on Nursing, which was held in Vienna from June 21st-24th 1988. Around 110 representatives of the 32 members of the World Health Organisation (WHO) European Region attended the conference, which provided nurses and midwives with an opportunity to address the implications of a new development strategy, which sought to provide healthcare for all.

The key objectives of the Vienna Declaration on Nursing were:

  • to introduce European nurses to the concept of health for all, and for them to adopt this philosophy as part of their working practice
  • to identify the necessary changes that would ensure that the 38 regional targets were met
  • to allow participants to make suggestions regarding action to be undertaken between 1988 and 2000 to guarantee the successful implementation of health for all

The conference was a direct result of a seven-year study, conducted by WHO that focused on the need for nursing care within Europe. Completed in 1985, the study noted the shift from a nurse’s role simply being one that completed a series of tasks, to a more patient-orientated position that took into consideration health, disease and the patient’s overall wellbeing.

As a result, the work of the nurses and midwives who participated in the conference created the Vienna Declaration on Nursing in Support of the European Targets for Health for All.

What impact has the Vienna Declaration on Nursing had?

The Vienna Declaration on Nursing has had a prominent impact on the development of nursing as a profession. Typically, nurses have more contact time with patients, and so the Vienna Declaration on Nursing enabled nurses to provide a larger contribution regarding patient care plans, ensuring that individuals received the best care possible tailored to their specific needs. This includes physical and mental health, as well as social wellbeing.

As well as acknowledging the need for change in the role of nursing, the Vienna Declaration on Nursing highlighted the importance of further education within the field; nursing education regarding both health needs and development, the social implications of patient development, and the need to secure a strong foundation for nursing practice.

The Vienna Declaration on Nursing also encouraged necessary research into nursing practices, creating research policies and support on a financial basis, which primarily involved nurses, and valued their contributions.

Is the Vienna Declaration on Nursing still relevant to this day?

The acceptance of the Vienna Declaration on Nursing has seen a positive change in attitudes towards the nursing profession, and they are still adapting today as nursing enters an era of digitalisation.

Retiring baby-boomers will require more care over the next 20 years, with nurses adopting practices that are quite different to those that existed 30 years ago.

Today, every role, from healthcare assistant to PhD graduate, is valued within the nursing profession. However, the digitalisation of healthcare creates new opportunities for nurses, as they will require a higher level of training in order to take these more modern concepts of healthcare into everyday practice.

The Vienna Declaration on Nursing provided a strong foundation for the development of nursing, elevating the role to a valued position that not only gained more respect, but also more responsibility regarding patient care. It seems fair to suggest that were it not for the Vienna Declaration on Nursing, nurses would have a very different role within patient care as we know it today.