Promoting the rights of the child in nursing and healthcare

Nova Corcoran, will be hosting this week’s ENB twitter chat on Wednesday the 19th of November between 8-9pm focusing on ‘the rights of the child in nursing and healthcare’   Participating in the twitter chat requires a Twitter account; if you do not already have one you can create an account at Once you have an account contributing is straightforward – follow the discussion by searching links to #ebnjc @EBNursingBMJ, or better still, create a tweet (tweets are text messages limited to 140 characters) to @EBNursingBMJ and add #ebnjc (the EBN chat hash tag) at the end of your tweet, this allows everyone taking part to view your tweets.

The 20th November is ‘Universal Children’s Day’, marking the day that the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of the Child (1959) and the Convention on the rights of the Child (1989). It is fitting to theme this blog and the Twitter discussion around the rights of the child and what this means for nursing and healthcare practice.

The convention on the rights of the child contains 54 articles that are wide ranging in coverage. Many are of interest to nurses and healthcare practitioners; for example children have the right to: survive and develop healthy (article 6), have a say in what happens to them and have their opinions taken into account (article 12) get and share information (article 13) be protected from all forms of violence (article 19), access to education (article 28 & 29) access to social security (article 31), an adequate standard of living (article 32) and to relax and play (article 31) (UNICEF 1989).

One of the strongest features of the child rights declaration is recognition that the rights of the child hinges on multiple organizations, multiple policies and multiple determinants. In order to properly promote child rights we have to involve all the settings where children live, learn and play and the people within those settings; teachers, healthcare and medical professionals, sport and leisure group leaders. Everyone has a responsibility to know what the rights of the child are, and to include or consider these rights within their practice. In the UK the education sector has taken the lead in this and many schools have become rights respecting schools (UNICEF 2014).

Of course, the strongest feature of the declaration could also be the weakest. Aside from people involved with children not knowing about child rights, practitioners may also decide that child rights are not part of their job, that someone else will be considering child rights, or simply that they (as the professional or adult) know best. Child rights can also be complex; those working in areas such as child protection or safeguarding will be well aware of the complexities of child rights and how to make decisions for the best.

So how do we support the rights of the child in nursing and healthcare practice? This is not just about those people working in child related roles such as school nurses. If we are truly supporting child rights we should all start with our own practice. As the child rights declaration takes a holistic view of child rights, this also means we need to take a holistic definition of health and include the physical, mental, social and spiritual health and well-being of the child. If we want to promote the rights of the child we need to be able to assist children to make choices in their life that are healthy and to speak out about things that are impacting on their health. We should be advocates for policies and practices that can protect children and their health.

So how do we do this in our own practice? Well, there is no overall plan for how we might interpret and respond to the declaration. However there are numerous ways we can promote, advocate, protect and improve the health of the child that will have an impact on child rights. From a wider environment approach we might advocate for smoke free playgrounds, free school meals or child road safety initiatives. From an individual perspective we might consider communication around medical procedures, health education campaigns, or provision of health information in child friendly formats. What do you think you could do? Join the twitter chat on Wednesday and share how you could (or have) advocate for the rights of the child in your practice.


UNICEF (1989) Executive summary on the rights of the child available at

UNICEF (2014) rights respecting schools available at

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