RCN Executive team

RCN Executive Team

The Executive Team is responsible for leading the RCN

The Chief Executive & General Secretary 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.

Donna Kinnair

Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary

Dame Donna Kinnair, has been acting as Chief Executive and General Secretary since August 2018, and was permanently appointed in April 2019.

Donna joined the RCN as Head of Nursing in 2015, providing leadership to the Nursing departments. Donna was then promoted and joined the RCN Executive Team to Director of Nursing, Policy and Practice in 2016, where her key role is to work with UK-wide RCN staff to drive and implement the future RCN professional nursing, policy and practice strategy.
Prior to joining the RCN Donna held various roles, including Clinical Director of Emergency Medicine at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust; Executive Director of Nursing, Southeast London Cluster Board; Director of Commissioning, London Borough of Southwark & Southwark PCT. She was the Strategic Commissioner for Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Health Authority’s Children’s Services.

Donna advised the PM’s Commission on the future of Nursing and Midwifery in 2010 and served as nurse/child health assessor to the Victoria Climbié Inquiry. 

Mike Adams

Mike Adams, Director, England

Mike Adams joined the RCN as West Midlands Regional Director in August 2017 with over 20 years of experience as a registered nurse (adult field) in both the clinical and Higher Education settings. 

After spending several years in practice Mike moved to Birmingham City University and held a number of roles in the Faculty of Health. He lectured on various subjects, led the Department of Practice Learning across the Faculty and then held the post of Associate Head of School for Nursing and Midwifery for the last three years of his time there. Mike was also the BCU representative Stakeholder Governor with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust. 

He sees being appointed to the role of RCN Director, England as a privilege and is very aware of the challenges and stresses that many nurses face on a day to day basis. He aims to continue to build the RCN community in order to help improve both working lives and patient care.  Mike is a strong believer that kindness and understanding can be applied to any situation and nursing staff should always try to show this in how they interact and care for patients, service users and each other.
Susan Aitkenhead

Susan Aitkenhead, Director, Scotland

Susan Aitkenhead was appointed as Director of RCN Scotland at the start of 2021. Susan is a registered nurse originally trained and working in Scotland, and has a post-graduate diploma in palliative care from the University of Glasgow and an MSc in Nursing from the University of Edinburgh.

Susan has worked in a range of clinical, operational and strategic roles across a variety of healthcare settings; including provider and commissioning executive and non-executive Board roles within both the UK and overseas. 

A clinical background as one of the early nurse consultants in Scotland led on to a variety of national roles such as at the Department of Health in England, at NHS England where she led work aligned to system and service transformation; and in professional regulation across the UK at the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

She has also had the rewarding opportunity to work in nursing director posts both in New Zealand and Australia; and separately had a short foray into the commercial sector, when working within an American IT healthcare company provided valuable learning in a different customer focussed sector.

Previous to joining the RCN, Susan worked as Deputy CNO in England, where her portfolio consisted of amongst other areas, developing a collective leadership model and ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard, and all roles are recognised as being equally important. 

Aaron Clift

Aaron Clift, Director of Transformation, Innovation and Digital

Aaron joined the RCN in 2020 and has overall responsibility for digital transformation.

Prior to joining the RCN, Aaron was Head of Digital Strategy Products & Innovation at NatWest and before this Head of Transformation at BT Group.

Aaron has delivered large scale transformation programmes across telecommunications and financial services including the merger of Orange and T-Mobile UK launching the EE Group and the digital transformation of commercial banking within the NatWest Group.

Aaron is passionate about transforming organisations through new ways of working using digital technology.

Pat Cullen, Director RCN Northern Ireland

Pat Cullen, Director, Northern Ireland

Pat has worked at the RCN since 2016 and has been in post as Director of RCN Northern Ireland since May 2019.

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 addition to her extensive career experience, Pat is a registered psychotherapist.

Fay Johnstone

Fay Johnstone, Director of People & OD

Fay joined the RCN in 2020 as Director of People & OD, with overall responsibility for the POD team and the Estates team.

Prior to joining the RCN, Fay was Head of People at the Royal College of Anaesthetists and, before this, Director of HR at the National Centre for Social Research. Fay has over 30 years’ working in human resources in both the private and not-for-profit sectors.

Fay’s passion in HR is helping managers (at all levels) to engage, motivate and manage their teams and individuals so that they can achieve their business goals.

Fay is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.
Yajna Sooklall

Yajna Sooklall, Director of Finance and Business Enablement

Yajna joined the RCN in February 2021 and has overall responsibility for finance, membership administration, marketing and events. 

She is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and qualified with an MBA from the Oxford Brookes University. She has 23 years of experience in finance, working across the charity, commercial and public sectors. Yajna previously worked as the Head of Financial Reporting at ARK Schools and prior to that, was the Deputy Chief Finance Officer at the NHS Camden Clinical Commissioning Group. 

Yajna was born in the multicultural island of Mauritius and comes from a family of nurses. She began her career in nursing, working as a Care Assistant and Auxiliary Nurse which remains a very rewarding experience. 
Nicole Valentinuzzi

Nicole Valentinuzzi, Director of Communications

Nicole joined the RCN in 2020. Previously she was the Director of Communications and Marketing at the Institute for Government, the UK's leading think tank working on government effectiveness. Having worked in Westminster for over a decade, she has held communications and private secretary roles in the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Justice.

Nicole has advised on global communication campaigns for a range of organisations, including international NGOs and grassroots charities, and she is currently a trustee of the Schools Consent Project. Her professional training and background is in journalism and public communications.

Helen Whyley

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.