RCN Executive Team
The Executive Team is responsible for leading the RCN
The General Secretary & Chief Executive runs the organisation with the help of the Executive Team. They get their authority from RCN Council. You can find out more about the Executive Team on this page.
Professor Pat Cullen, General Secretary & Chief Executive
Pat has worked at the RCN since 2016 and has been acting as General Secretary & Chief Executive since April 2021, and was appointed as interim General Secretary & Chief Executive in July 2021.
In a career that has spanned both hospital and community settings, Pat was Assistant Director of Mental Health Services and Professional Head of Nursing in a local health care trust before joining the Department of Health as Nursing Officer in 2001. During this time she was involved in the development of the commissioning of the first Medium Secure Unit in Northern Ireland and the first Department of Health standards for clinical supervision in mental health nursing.
Following this, Pat took on various roles in commissioning before being appointed Deputy Director of Nursing, Safety, Quality and Patient Experience in the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Health and Social Care Board (HSCB). Pat led the development of the first safety and quality strategy in Northern Ireland and established the 10,000 Voices project which collected patient voices in order to inform commissioning decisions.
Pat was then seconded as Executive Director of Nursing and Allied Health Professions within the PHA and HSCB. Before joining the RCN, Pat, on behalf for the Department of Health, led the commissioning and performance management arrangements for unscheduled care services.
In 2024, the title of Honorary Professor of Practice was conferred on Pat by the Queen's University Belfast.
In addition to her extensive career experience, Pat is a registered psychotherapist.
Professor Nicola Ranger, Chief NurseProfessor Nicola Ranger joined the RCN in December 2022. She was previously Chief Nurse and Executive Director of Midwifery at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London. Before that, she held Chief Nurse posts at both Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust.
She has also held a number of senior nursing roles at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust. Earlier in her career, she worked at America’s George Washington University Hospital in Washington and at Mount Sinai Medical Centre in New York.
Philip Ball, Director of Policy, Communications and Marketing
Philip joined the Royal College of Nursing in 2017 after working in public policy in Westminster and Brussels. He has over ten years of health policy communications experience.
In 2022, Philip joined the RCN's executive and leads on the organisation's communications with members, campaigns, marketing and data analysis, business developement, political advocacy and stakeholder relations.
Rita Devlin, Director, Northern Ireland
RGN, BSc Nursing Science, MSc Lifelong Learning
Rita has worked in a variety of clinical settings at ward sister level with experience in emergency departments and general medicine. She moved from clinical posts in 2001 to hold several corporate nursing posts within HSC trusts, with responsibility for the development and implementation of person-centred care, nurse development, service and quality improvement, and patient safety. She has a special interest in leadership, management, service improvement to improve patient experience, and human factors training.
Rita joined the RCN in 2009 as a Senior Professional Development Officer, During this time she facilitated multidisciplinary health care teams to: improve, reform and modernise practice; develop and redesign services; implement evidence into practice; and evaluate the effectiveness of change. She wrote and produced the Regulating Rita play, which is used to give nurses insight into Nursing and Midwifery Council hearings.
Rita was then promoted to the position of Associate Director of Nursing Policy and Practice, During this time, she spent a year as acting Deputy Director in Northern Ireland. She also supported RCN members through industrial action, including strike action, in 2019 and 2020 and at that time was Trade Union Side Secretary for the RCN.
Joanne Galbraith-Marten, Director of Legal Services and Member RelationsJo is a solicitor and specialises in employment law. She qualified in 2003 and joined the RCN in 2010.
Prior to joining the RCN, Jo worked in private practice and has only ever represented Claimants and Trade Unions. She has a particular interest in discrimination and equal pay claims.
Jo was appointed a fee paid Employment Judge on 1 October 2021.
Patricia Marquis, Director, England
Having qualified as a Registered Nurse in her home town of Blackpool and a brief spell working in the US, Patricia moved to Oxfordshire and worked as a specialist orthopaedic nurse for many years. Wanting to support her colleagues more, she got involved with the Royal College of Nursing as a workplace representative.
Developing this passion for fairness and promoting nursing she became a member of RCN staff over 20 years ago and, having held a number of roles, now leads the delivery of RCN services across England.
Colin Poolman, Director, Scotland
Colin has been Director of RCN Scotland since September 2021. A registered nurse for over 30 years, Colin has been a key member of the RCN Scotland team for many years, most recently as Associate Director for Pay, Terms and Conditions.
Colin has also worked across the UK and spent time working as an Associate Director in RCN Northern Ireland just before the pandemic as well as operationally leading the RCN UK Pay Programme supporting the RCN’s Fair Pay for Nursing campaign.
Gush Uppal - Director of Finance
Gush is a commercially focused finance director experienced in multiple business models. Prior to joining the RCN, Gush worked in the commercial sector across different organisations ranging from blue chip multi nationals to medium-sized private equity-backed businesses. This was followed by eight years working at Climate KIC, funding climate change related innovation before his last role as Interim Finance Director at Unite The Union.
Gush is a results-oriented professional and has significant experience in financial and performance management, strategic planning, governance, financial controls and managing risk, acquisitions and rationalization.
An effective communicator with strong interpersonal skills and a successful track record of working with key stake holders as well as managing finance and commercial teams, both local and international to drive growth and profitability improvement.
Helen Whyley, Director, Wales
Helen has been in post since November 2018 and was previously been Associate Director (Employment Relations) at RCN Wales. She is Chair of the All Wales Trade Union Group, Wales NHS Partnership Forum.
Helen previously worked in the office of the Welsh Government's Chief Nursing Officer including advising on policy on the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016. Her clinical background is in intensive care.
Natalie Zara, Director of GovernanceNatalie is an experienced and qualified governance professional having spent over 12 years working in governance roles at a senior level.
Prior to joining the RCN in 2023, Natalie was Head of Planning, Strategy and Governance at the Bar Council for many years. There she worked closely with the Chair of the Bar and with the elected members of the Bar Council and was instrumental in implementing a plethora of changes designed to streamline and improve governance processes and systems.
Most recently Natalie occupied the role of Head of Executive and Member Services at Brent Council where she led Brent’s governance, elections, Leader’s office, Chief Executive’s office, civic and member services, and complaints and casework teams.