International Classification for Nursing Practice

Nursing leaders have long recognised that clear articulation of nursing practice is
essential for full recognition of the breadth and depth of the profession. Florence
Nightingale wrote in Notes on Nursing “the very elements of nursing are all but unknown”
(1859). Isabell Hampton Robb later wrote “While attending a special meeting of the ICN
in Paris, I was naturally at once struck by the fact…that the methods and ways of
regarding nursing problems were…as foreign to the various delegations as were the
actual languages? and the thought occurred to me that …sooner or later we must put
ourselves upon a common basis and work out what may be termed a ‘nursing esperanto’
which would in the course of time, give us a universal nursing language” (1909). More
recently Dr Norma Lang commented on the invisibility of nursing: “If we cannot name it,
we cannot control it, finance it, research it, teach it, or put it into public policy” (Clark &
Lang 1992).
The resolution to establish an International Classification for Nursing Practice (ICNP®)
was passed by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Council of National
Representatives (CNR) in 1989, in Seoul, Korea. The resolution identified the need to
describe nursing practice in the financing of health care. It was also recognised that the
articulation of nursing practice would have practice, research, education and policymaking
implications. Several purposes of the ICNP® were identified in the early years:
1) provide a tool for describing and documenting clinical nursing practice? 2) use the tool
as the basis for clinical decisionmaking?and
3) provide nursing with a vocabulary and a
classification system that can be used to include nursing data in computerised
information systems.
Essentially, the components of the ICNP® are the elements of nursing practice: what
nurses do relative to certain human needs to produce certain results (nursing
interventions, diagnoses, and outcomes). A common, unified language with which to
express these elements of nursing practice allows for 1) comparisons across clinical
settings, client populations, geographic areas or time? 2) identification of nursing in
multidisciplinary health care teams? and 3) differentiation of practice across nursing
levels of preparation and experience. A unified language for nursing further correlates
nursing activities with health outcomes and can support appropriate allocation of health
care resources.
During this first decade of the 21 st century, global health developments are taking place
in an environment of great political and economic turmoil. Trauma, disease and the farreaching
effects of poverty continue to threaten the health and wellbeing
of large
populations. Information technology is increasingly available to support practice,
education, research, and policy development.

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