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Liz Robb: Championing a champion of nursing

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  • Liz Robb OBE is to leave the Florence Nightingale Foundation
  • Her legacy includes establishing a popular annual conference, and introducing programmes on compassionate care
  • Liz has raised the profile of clinical nursing research – and the profession as a whole
  • She is a true champion and voice for nursing – something that is often sadly lacking in this profession


Given the changing nature of health and nursing policy, it’s not that often someone sticks around long enough in one top role to become a household name, a stalwart of the profession if you will.

Well, in my view, one of those that has achieved such status is Liz Robb, chief executive of the Florence Nightingale Foundation. She has been at the head of the nursing education and research charity for seven years now.

So, it was with some surprise – and sadness - that the occupants of NT Towers opened an email earlier this week informing us she was to step down early next year.

”Liz has been a true champion for nursing – always energetic and never afraid to put her view across”

The word “champion” is often bandied around in health policy circles but Liz has been a true champion for nursing – always energetic and never afraid to put her view across. And in a world where we, as the press, and others in the profession frequently criticise the absence of nursing leaders, she is one that stands out.

I think all us of in the nursing press have all been chivvied at some time or another by Liz to cover something that the foundation is working on – be it the annual Westminster lamp procession or a new leadership initiative. And every nurse we know is afraid to go to a meeting with her, for fear they end up with a long to-do list they need to pack into their busy schedules.

The foundation itself has credited Liz with the successful introduction of programmes in compassionate care and a substantial increase in the number and diversity of its leadership scholars.

Under her tenure, it has also introduced an annual conference, which is always busy and never fails to delight, surprise and inspire with its list of unusual or hard-hitting big names – she’s attracted authors Margaret Heffernan of Wilful Blindness fame, Steve Peters, writer of the Chimp Paradox as well as two health secretaries.

“She delivered a presentation that was powerful, honest and though-provoking”

And although she always starts every speech she makes at our own Nursing Times events by claiming not to be an orator, she always packs a punch. At her first Nursing Times summit as a speaker, she shuffled up to the stage nervously, with a deck of papers that almost meant she couldn’t see over the top of the lectern. And then delivered a presentation that was powerful, honest and though-provoking.

She has also overseen the foundation’s establishment of a network of 12 Florence Nightingale chairs in universities and healthcare providers across the UK to raise the profile of clinical nursing practice research.

Someone outside the profession was evidently watching what she was up to as well, as she was awarded an OBE for services to nursing and midwifery in June 2015.

”We wish her good luck in whatever her next role is, and look forward to working with her successor at the foundation”

So, we wish her good luck in whatever her next role is, and look forward to working with her successor at the foundation. But we know that Liz will be a hard act to follow.

Meanwhile, we welcome two other potential champions of the profession to influential positions this week.

Former mental health nurse and Nursing Times contributor Sean Duggan has been named as chief executive of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network – a sector of that can never have enough champions.

Cardiff and Vale executive nurse director Ruth Walker has joined the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s governing body as its representative for Wales – a role that that brings its own unique challenges.

So, at a time when sticking your head above the parapet seems more dangerous than ever, let’s champion the champions. Thank you Liz.

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