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RCN Fellowships

RCN Fellowships are awarded to UK registered nurses who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of nursing and/or health care. This year Fellowships were awarded to: 

Tara Jane Bartley

An advanced nurse practitioner, Tara Bartley is an acknowledged leader in the field of cardiothoracic surgery who tirelessly promotes the importance of multi-professional care for patients undergoing cardiothoracic surgery.

A highly vocal champion of the vital role nurses play in delivering the timely and expert interventions that are so critical to the survival and recovery of patients, Tara has lead the way in developing new working processes across the multi-disciplinary team. The measurable outcomes for patients include reduced lengths of stay, fewer readmissions and lower infection rates.

As an expert in her field she has contributed to national and international policy development, was an external adviser in the development of a new cardiothoracic unit in Wales, reviewed workforce issues on behalf of the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgery (SCTS) as the nursing representative for the UK and Ireland and pushed forward innovative working practices across the speciality. In 2006 she helped develop the highly popular Cardiac advanced life support (CALS) course in the way it has subsequently evolved within the UK and Europe, which is currently being reviewed by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN).

In her leadership role within the SCTS Tara has been instrumental in forging links between nurses, surgical care practitioners and allied health professionals across the

UK and Ireland to promote and share best practices and care innovations. Central to her activities in this area has been her commitment to ensuring the patient perspective is always given a voice – and she regularly engages patient groups to share their experiences with those working within the specialty.

A highly visible role model within the cardiothoracic clinical team at the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, she is viewed as an invaluable source of expertise to her critical care team, ward nurses and the surgical team.

Her passion for nursing, and exceptional drive to ensure delivery of the best in safe, patient-centred care, mark Tara out as a true leader in the field of cardiothoracic nursing.

Janet Davies

A highly respected nurse leader, Janet has never lost sight of what it’s like to work on the frontline.

From her earliest days as a visionary nurse director Janet was always one step ahead of the pack – empowering nurses to define standards long before this became fashionable and pioneering the move from a hierarchical nurse management structure to one of inclusion and autonomy.

Janet is an able politician who knows when and where to intervene and influence to best effect. Under her auspices the RCN has successfully run a number of high impact campaigns – including Frontline First, Nutrition Now and Dignity at Work - that have helped focus the public and media on real events in the NHS as well as threats to nursing and patient services, and made a measurable difference to the quality of care delivered to patients.

Passionate about improving patient outcomes, her endeavours have seen the RCN engage in powerful partnerships and projects with other royal colleges to benefit patients. For example, the VTE guidelines recently produced in conjunction with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society have the potential to save thousands of lives. Janet has also strengthened RCN relations with a number of patient organisations, harnessing her political acumen and clinical insights to leverage local and national change on behalf of patient groups.

Since joining the RCN in 2005 Janet has brought her skills and experience to bear on achieving the RCN’s vision – to be the voice of nursing - and has made a positive contribution to changing the way the RCN is perceived in both policy and political arenas. Recently she was elected the first chair of the newly merged National Clinical Guidelines Centre Management Board – the first time this role has been held by a nurse.

Forthright, direct, and fearless, Janet is never afraid to speak up for nurses and is passionate about helping other nurse leaders develop their ideas through to a practical application in patient care.

Liz Henderson

An exceptional leader in the field of cancer nursing and the development of cancer services in Northern Ireland and beyond, Liz Henderson has a longstanding and impressive record in the field of cancer nursing and oncology.

Her originality of approach is best illustrated by her use of practice development initiatives in the development of multi-professional, multi-disciplinary managed clinical networks.

Liz has employed her top level expertise in practice development to drive a number of initiatives – including a Leadership and Practice Development Programme between Belfast City Hospital Trust and St James Hospital Dublin, a collaborative practice development programme for 50 participants from two major hospitals in Belfast, and an action learning set for participants from Queen’s University and the University of Ulster. Her dedication to promoting the principles of person centeredness and critical reflection has helped to change the working culture and outlook of frontline practitioners.

Liz’s influence extends well beyond the UK and Northern Ireland. Having published a number of significant research-based publications on practice development in relation to cancer care, she has also presented papers on this topic as far afield as Italy and Australia.

Noted for her remarkable dedication to the people with cancer for whom she cares, Liz Henderson holds the respect and admiration of all who come into contact with her for her integrity, humanity, creativity and humour. In recognition of her outstanding achievement and services to health care, she was awarded an OBE in 2010.

Professor Sarah Hewlett

Having qualified as a nurse in the early 1970s, Sarah Hewlett took the decision to make the move from being a ward sister into clinical research in the late 1980s.

Her work as the Clinical Research Manager for Rheumatology brought her into daily contact with people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and led her to focus on the patient perspective of living with RA.

Her groundbreaking Values, disability and personal impact in rheumatoid arthritis PhD, published in 2000, saw medical communities in the UK and overseas call into question how outcome measures are devised. Her work incorporating the patient perspective of arthritis into outcomes strongly influenced the international body for the development of Outcomes Measurement in Rheumatology Clinical Trials (OMERACT), who established an international patient perspectives group. Sarah is the co-lead for this group, and is currently leading a research study across five countries to understand the nature of the RA ‘flare’ – an outstanding achievement for one individual in terms of the design and conduct of international clinical studies.

A primary focus of her current work is investigating the fatigue associated with RA from the patient perspective. As a result of her work, fatigue is now included as a compulsory measure in the core data set of international clinical trials.

An inspirational nurse who has made an exceptional contribution to the speciality, Sarah continues to progress this body of work through her own research and that of her post graduate students and team at the University of the West of England, Bristol. In her scientific work, she has focused on a myriad of topics and issues that are of importance to patients and clinical practice and many of her results have been translated into improved patient treatment and care. All her recent projects include patient research partners on the steering team.

Despite coming to research relatively late, Sarah has achieved an extraordinary academic career. Among the first of five health professionals in the UK to be awarded an Arthritis Research UK Senior Lectureship, in 2007 she became the Arthritis Research UK Professor of Rheumatology of Nursing.

Tom Sandford

As Director of RCN England, Tom Sandford has been an exceptional advocate and ambassador for nursing leadership and nurse directors.

His practice and support for this difficult function in the England health community has been without parallel and is respected by members, employers, the Department of Health and sister organisations as well as nurse leaders and frontline nurses across the country.

Alongside his RCN work, Tom continues to make an outstanding contribution to the development of care in mental health services. In the 1990s Tom undertook pioneering research into the impact of neuroleptic medication on patients with serious and enduring mental health problems, and developed nursing interventions to ameliorate the effects of medication on patients. Ultimately, this led him to create a training programme for community psychiatric nurses. Delivered in 1995, the training involved service users for the first time in RCN history and secured respect for the role of the RCN as commentator and protagonist in the national mental health agenda.

In 1998 Tom co-authored the definitive nursing text Perspectives on mental health nursing with Kevin Gournay, and in 1999 was appointed to the ministerial taskforce co-ordinating the NHS mental health national service framework. The work attracted considerable European interest and subsequently Tom was invited to deliver mental health service integration programmes at universities in Germany and Spain. His joint publication Dual diagnosis – practice in context (2010) continues his interest in challenging existing assumptions and service responses and has been well received.

More recently Tom has been involved in supporting novel mental health service user employment projects and has also served on several public inquiries into failures of mental health services.

Regarded with deep trust and respect by his peers, Tom’s extraordinary ability to care for others – in and outside of work – is matched by his compassion, warmth and wisdom and willingness to go the extra mile on behalf of others. Acknowledged as a peerless mentor by many nurse leaders – and others – he has helped shape the mental health nursing landscape of today.

Professor Debbie Tolson

An early specialisation in the acute and rehabilitative care of older people proved the starting point for Debbie Tolson’s long standing commitment to the care of older people.

Over a 10-year period following completion of her Masters degree, Debbie established herself as a leader in older people’s care and practice while building a research team and becoming influential in the development of a generation of new researchers. Her pioneering work on the management of age related hearing problems in long-term care was groundbreaking and led to a much needed improvement in the care of this vulnerable group.

In 2003 she became director of the Centre for Gerontological Practice in Glasgow, establishing a multi-professional organisation responsible for undertaking research, knowledge transfer, continuing professional development and external research collaborations. The Caledonian research team’s Community of Practice Improvement Model, designed to accelerate the achievement of evidence informed improvements, is being implemented within a number of countries including UK, New Zealand and the USA.

More recently Debbie established and assumed directorship of the Scottish Centre for Evidence-Based Care of Older People at the Joanna Briggs Institute, putting Scotland well and truly on the international map in this field. Working in collaboration with the RCN she has successfully secured an agreement with the Chief Nursing Officer to establish a professorial network for Scotland.

In June 2010 Debbie became the first nurse to be honoured with the Jim Flood Memorial Distinguished Lectureship - awarded by the St Louis University Medical School, United States - for her outstanding work in the field of neuroscience and dementia. Former award holders include the Nobel Prize winner Andrew Schally and Jon Morris, the leading clinical researcher in Alzheimer’s disease in the United States.

Debbie represents nursing on the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG) and the World Health Organization (WHO) task force, charged with improving nursing home care for older people around the world, through education, reputation enhancement and research. This year she joins an international faculty piloting an international certificate in nursing home practice for physicians, nurses and administrators in China and Hong Kong.

Debbie’s leadership skills and international reputation in her field of research have played an important role in the development of nurse research and nurse education in Scotland.