Inspiring nurses and midwives to deliver the highest quality care has earned the country’s top nurse Jane Cummings an honorary award from Edge Hill University.

Taking the helm at one of the most challenging times known for the NHS, the Chief Nursing Officer for England is driving forward the national agenda in health care and is developing clinical leadership at every level for the benefit of patients.

In light of her notable career, her passionate vision for the future and links with Edge Hill, Jane has been awarded an honorary doctorate, which was conferred by the University’s Chancellor Professor Tanya Byron in a ceremony at the Ormskirk campus on 8th December.

Speaking after the ceremony, she said: “It is a huge honour and privilege to be given this award. It’s also very humbling because when I first went into nursing I didn’t expect to be where I am today or to receive an honorary doctorate.”

As a teenager, Jane spent time in hospital with a member of her family and also did work experience in an acute medical ward. “Watching the way the nurses cared for their patients, their knowledge, support and the impact they had made me realise it was what I wanted to do,” explained Jane. “It is something that has stayed with me throughout my career – the patient must always come first.”

With this in mind, she launched the national strategy for nurses, midwives and care staff last week, which puts care and compassion as well as technical skills at the heart of what the profession does. The new guidelines, which made national media headlines, focuses on the ‘six Cs’ – care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment. These are key values for nurses, midwives and care staff and the strategy identifies national, local and individual action to support their delivery.

She said: “This is about changing the culture of the organisations that provide care to hundreds of thousands of patients every day. It’s about looking at the culture in which we work and having the values and way of working that really drives improvements and puts patients at the heart of what we do.”

Jane qualified as a registered general nurse in the early 1980s and undertook a number of nursing positions within a variety of specialities. Following on from this she fulfilled a variety of senior management positions within the NHS, including Director of Nursing and Commissioning, Deputy Chief Executive of a large NHS Trust and a senior position within the Department of Health. She was appointed to her present role as the Chief Nursing Officer for England in March 2012.

She said: “I’ve only been in the role a few short months but the level of support I’ve received has been overwhelming. I’ve had a chance to speak to many people, including lots of student nurses who do a wonderful job, and I just want to do them proud now.

“What I’d say to them is that nursing and midwifery are great professions to be in with so many opportunities. My advice is to stick to your values, live by the six Cs and don’t forget to put patients at the heart of everything that you do.”

Denise Boyle, Associate Dean of Faculty of Health and Social Care, said: “The NHS is going through a period of unprecedented change and it is vital that it has strong leadership in place to steer it through the challenges that it will face. With Jane’s breadth of frontline experience we look forward to her making a difference to patient care and having the nursing voice heard.

“Jane’s relationship with the faculty has been established over a number of years. Those who have had the privilege of working with Jane have been inspired by her strategy to deliver the six Cs.  Her call is for nurses, midwives and care-staff to show care and compassion in how they look after patients and clients and how they find the courage to do the right thing, even if it means standing up to senior people to act for the patient’s best interests in a pressured environment.  We pride ourselves in being able to deliver future generations of nurses and midwives who hold these ambitions and values at the core of their educational and clinical practice. It is an honour to have Jane as our national role model.”