Four nurses honoured with fellowships at RCN congress

The RCN presented fellowships, its top honour, to four outstanding nurses at congress for exceptional commitment to nursing and improving healthcare

Yvonne Coghill (with certificate) was one of four nurses honoured at congress.
Picture: John Houlihan

Four outstanding nurses received the RCN’s top honour at the opening of congress on Sunday.

Hilary Chapman, Yvonne Coghill, Jess Davidson and Ann Gallagher were awarded RCN fellowships after being nominated by their peers for exceptional commitment to nursing and improving healthcare.

Fellows help shape RCN policy and standards and are entitled to use the letters FRCN after their name.

Professor Dame Hilary Chapman was honoured for her ‘major contribution to health policy, healthcare delivery and safer nursing care’, including her work in co-developing a tool determining safe staffing levels in acute areas, said RCN general secretary Janet Davies. 

‘She is a passionate voice for nursing,’ Ms Davies said.

Raising our profile

Dame Hilary, chief nurse at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘I have been a member of the RCN since 1982, when I was a student, and it has been a constant for me throughout my career. To be sharing a stage with people so amazing is humbling. I am so proud of my profession – we need to be showing the public what we do and raising our profile.’

Senior clinical forensic charge nurse Jess Davidson was recognised for the improvements her clinical leadership has made to people in the criminal justice system since 2002.

‘She is a champion for social justice, particularly people who find themselves in custody,’ said Ms Davies, who also paid tribute to Ms Davidson’s ‘tremendous energy’.

‘She has put hope and recovery in reach of countless vulnerable people.’

Ms Davidson said the fellowship was a surprise but she aims to use the honour to further the professional experience of justice and forensic nurses.

‘I want to help them to have the most powerful and authentic experience they can in their careers,’ she said.

Yvonne Coghill OBE was made a fellow for her work to increase diversity in the workforce, particular in leadership roles, ensuring staff from minority groups feel more supported.

She has led national projects such as the Breaking Through programme and is director of the workforce race equality standard implementation programme at NHS England.

Most rewarding

Ms Coghill said: ‘The most rewarding thing about being made a fellow of the RCN is that you are being acclaimed  by your peers and they have agreed that you are indeed a good nurse, someone that has gone over and above the call of duty for patients and colleagues.

‘As a black nurse of African Caribbean descent I feel particularly humble to have received this accolade. It is important that other BME nurses believe they too can achieve this honour.

‘The RCN fellowship is a very prestigious award. The fellows that have been acknowledged before me are all phenomenal nurses with many great achievements under their belts. It’s hard to believe I am now part of this highly esteemed and very special group of nurses.’

Ms Davies said: ‘Yvonne is an inspiration, and encourages staff to be creative.’

Mighty portfolio

University of Surrey professor of ethics and care Ann Gallagher was honoured for her exceptional contribution to education and her ‘mighty portfolio’ of research, particularly in ethics, taking this subject to the widest possible audience nationally and internationally.

‘She has made a significant difference to the care of vulnerable and elderly patients,’ said Ms Davies.

Speaking at her last congress as RCN president, Cecilia Amin drew large cheers for a rousing speech in which she said: ‘Nurses are a force for good and a force to be reckoned with.’

Reflecting on the Scrap the Cap pay campaign she told delegates: ‘We were up for the fight, and what a fight we made of it. The voice of nursing was heard.

‘Nurses must always have a seat at the table and if there is not one, take your own.'

Breaking down barriers

She said nurses’ roles had changed significantly since she started her career in 1979, with clinical nurse specialists looking after the whole patient journey and colleagues running GP practices and performing minor surgery.

‘The work you do is breaking down barriers,’ she told congress. ‘We are showing the world what we are capable of, not just on Nurses’ Day but every day.’

She cited the example of Dorcas Gwata, a previous winner of the Mental Health category of the RCNi Nurse Awards.

‘Dorcas is an incredible nurse who has supported 80 families and 100 gang members. She is keeping our young people on the right track and her work is changing lives.’


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