Meet the team: Donna

Recently we asked Director of Nursing, Policy and Practice at the Royal College of Nursing, Dame Donna Kinnair, if she would consider becoming our non-executive board's Chair. After some meetings with our senior team she accepted. Donna was a clear choice of chair for us because of her extensive clinical background, experience in commissioning and understanding of safeguarding, having dealt with particularly challenging cases in the Climbie enquiry.

You've tackled many roles and diverse projects within the nursing profession. What drew you to nursing in those early stages and what's kept you there since

It took me a while to become a nurse – although I wanted to nurse my best subject at school was maths. So I went to university to study maths. It was whilst working for M&S that my desire to nurse was rekindled when I visited an occupational health nurse – whom I shared this desire with. She told me I could absolutely become a nurse. So I had my son and then commenced my nursing training.

I really like working with people. I like learning and teaching and I love variety so a career in nursing really suited me – it offered me the ability to work with people both staff and patients, to continue learning as well as using some of the skills I acquired along the way such as managing, commissioning (or buying) health services, advocating and teaching. However most of all it is about working alongside patients to improve services for them, which supports and improve their health. I have always tried to think how can we do this better and our patients often can advise us on how.

Thinking about SH:24, what attracted you to joining our board?

SH:24 is an innovative way of delivering sexual health services which puts the patients’ needs at the centre. I believe in any service that puts the patient’s experience and tries to improve the quality of care delivered, as well as actively engage users in its design has a really good chance of delivering good care. This sums up what SH:24 has done and it has the potential to deliver care in this way across a range of services. Also I am attracted to the enthusiasm, passion and dedication of the board members and staff. They have an “anything is possible” approach to finding improvements and every time I meet up with them I leave with renewed energy and drive.

Tell us about becoming a Dame, how as this impacted on your life?

It was, for me, beyond anything I had ever contemplated and you get it for doing a job you love – so it is really special. The honour makes it possible for you to give back in many ways. I use it when I am inspiring school children as a governor or promoting my profession. I have had the privilege of meeting many people, attending many functions but the honour was for 'nursing services' so I always try to use it to improve and promote nursing and public sector services.

How do you think technology will shape nursing in the coming years, what is the RCN doing to equip its members for the changing health landscape?

It will have a phenomenal impact on nursing and all services but for people who are unwell there will always be a need for a physical nursing presence and we cannot or should not automate that.

Having said that everything that can be done safely through technology should be. The RCN has a commitment to improving the use of technology in nursing- so that nursing can focus on delivering care and do the things that only a nurse could do. The RCN just recently hosted a Hackathon bringing together some of the best IT guru’s from a range of universities and businesses to work with nurses to find a solution to the current babel of note taking that nurses valiantly work-around. A solution that provides nurses with a method for recording notes that can be done in any setting, not dependant on a monitor and can be inputted directly into records. The ideas are currently with the Department of Health. We also undertake projects across the UK promoting the use of technology and we have an e-health forum which participates in advising on and promoting technological devices.

You have also studied law how has that influenced your work?

I studied law because of my work. As a health visitor I wasn’t enamoured by the Housing Act (1985) which was not supporting many of my clients who were homeless. I believed if I understood the law I could formulate arguments that meant their plight could be heard. I studied law because I have a strong sense of justice and I believe it has helped me argue effectively and process my thoughts in a logical way. Getting heard is some way to getting action! I have used principles of advocacy and the ability to write arguments basing them on legal and ethical principles to promote many of the changes I have wanted to achieve but to argue effectively you have to listen to counter arguments. Although it was hard work understanding the law did improve my confidence because I knew getting through all the studying and working I could do almost anything.

Thanks Donna, we're very excited to have you on the team!