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New community and end of life lead wants to challenge RCN’s elitist image

Carolyn Doyle wants to be accessible to all nurses, and to champion and support them
Image shows RCN community lead for end of life care Carolyn Doyle

Carolyn Doyle wants to be accessible to all nurses, and to champion and support them in her new role at the RCN

  • New RCN professional lead for community and end of life care has extensive community and hospice experience
  • Carolyn Doyle believes her experience can help challenge the image of the RCN as 'elitist'
  • While she values nursing academia, she thinks compassion, kindness and making a human connection are also vital

Carolyn Doyle has had a career packed with front line and senior nursing experience in the community and acute sector and she has been a leader, educator and mentor. But these opportunities would never have come about if she had listened to the teachers who told her she could never be a nurse.

Her impressive

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Carolyn Doyle wants to be accessible to all nurses, and to champion and support them in her new role at the RCN

  • New RCN professional lead for community and end of life care has extensive community and hospice experience
  • Carolyn Doyle believes her experience can help challenge the image of the RCN as 'elitist'
  • While she values nursing academia, she thinks compassion, kindness and making a human connection are also vital

RCN professional lead for community and end of life care Carolyn Doyle

Carolyn Doyle has had a career packed with front line and senior nursing experience in the community and acute sector and she has been a leader, educator and mentor. But these opportunities would never have come about if she had listened to the teachers who told her she could never be a nurse.

Her impressive employment record, rooted in improving the care of the dying, has proved just how wrong those teachers were.

Now as RCN professional lead for community and end of life care, Ms Doyle wants to be the voice of nurses who work in the community and end of life care to help patients get the compassionate, dignified care and death they deserve. ‘I want to use my experience to influence better patient care,’ she says.

She is keen to hear the day-to-day experiences of the nurses she represents and find out what is ‘really happening at the coal face’.

Poor staffing levels interfere with the quality of end of life care 

With the RCN campaigning for safer staffing, and 40,000 nursing vacancies in England alone, many people will not be delivering the care they want to, she says.

‘We want community nurses to have difficult conversations with people about their future and their death, but how can they when they don’t have proper staffing and a list of 20 patients to see? You can’t just start these conversations and leave – they need time. If systems aren’t properly resourced you can’t make a real difference.’

Ms Doyle, who left school without qualifications, spent a year working as a nursing auxiliary at her local hospital in Essex in the early 1980s. She passed the General Nursing Council entrance test and first trained as a district nurse.

‘We want community nurses to have difficult conversations with people about their future and their death – but how can they when they don’t have proper staffing and a list of 20 patients to see?’

She always felt drawn towards caring for the dying. ‘I had a bond with people at the end of life, perhaps because as a youngster I had lived with my grandparents and lost them when I was quite young so had that lived experience of what it is like to lose people. I always felt if I could support and help someone achieve their preferred place of death, such as at home, then that was a job well done.’

Ms Doyle spent most of her career working in the community setting, mainly as a district nurse, before becoming lead nurse for end of life care at North East London NHS Foundation Trust and then Macmillan strategic lead nurse specialist for palliative and end of life care at Barts Health NHS Trust.

She gained a nursing degree in her forties, attending night school when her children were young, and then later completed a postgraduate certificate in practice education.

Compassion, kindness and a human connection are important nursing attributes

Ms Doyle says her background, which she describes as ‘lower working class’, meant that she didn’t feel she fitted in with the ‘twinset and pearls’ nursing students and nurses she encountered. She believes her experience can help tackle the image of the RCN which can be perceived by members as elitist.

‘There is so much focus on academia, and I’m not saying that is not important, it is just that there is so much more to nursing’

‘I was lucky to have the opportunities I did,’ says Ms Doyle, an honorary lecturer at City, University of London.

‘I met people prepared to champion me and support me. I want everyone to have those same opportunities. There is so much focus on academia, and I’m not saying that is not important, it is just that there is so much more to nursing.

‘Compassion, kindness, having that human connection is so important. That’s what makes the difference to patients – often it is the small things.’

In her new post she will be supporting the work of four forums and ensuring the experiences of nurses she represents are heard.

‘My main focus has been community nursing and care closer to home, and I want to be the voice of the members, reflecting the stories I hear and bringing them to the table,’ she says. ‘I want to be accessible to all nurses.’


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Erin Dean is a health journalist

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