The NMC’s executive director of professional practice, Geraldine Walters, has paid tribute to all the ‘invaluable’ nurses, midwives and nursing associates on the register, as she announced she will be leaving her role in November.
Professor Walters has made ‘an immense contribution’ to nursing and midwifery education and practice, NMC’s chief executive and registrar, Andrea Sutcliffe, said.
Joining the NMC in 2016 as director of nursing and midwifery education, standards and policy, Professor Walters has since ‘led the development and delivery of all NMC’s new standards – including our transformative Future Nurse and Future Midwife standards, which are increasingly shaping practice across the UK,’ the NMC said.
Professor Walters’ departure, announced on 6 July, follows ‘an exceptional career in practice, research, education and leadership,’ the NMC said.
‘In response to the pandemic, Geraldine spearheaded our approach to developing additional emergency education standards, which increased course flexibility and allowed some students to support the workforce.’
She also oversaw the move to virtual quality assurance of nursing and midwifery programmes, and the Caring with Confidence series of animations ‘to support professionals to uphold high standards in challenging and unprecedented circumstances,’ NMC said.
Professor Walters had lead responsibility for developing the clinical and practice standards to allow regulation of the nursing associate role in 2018/2019 – a role ‘designed to bridge the gap between registered nurses and healthcare assistants in England’, the regulator explained.
Ms Sutcliffe said Prof Walters has made ‘an immense contribution to nursing and midwifery education and practice,’ and her leadership has ‘completely transformed’ NMC’s education standards for nurses and midwives, and introduced a new profession in nursing associates.
‘She played a key role as the NMC navigated the challenges brought by the pandemic, continuing to innovate and inspire us all,’ Ms Sutcliffe continued.
‘I know our colleagues and partners will miss Gerry’s passion for her profession, and her amazing ability to get to the heart of an issue. I have personally benefited from Gerry’s wisdom and advice and I’m very grateful I’ve had the opportunity to work with her for more than three years.’
Dame Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, has thanked Prof Walters for her ‘exemplary leadership.’
She said: ‘Having such a senior and well-respected registrant at the top table of our professional regulator has had a more positive impact on nurses, midwives and nursing associates than most of us will ever know.
‘Gerry’s legacy will be the high standards of care people receive across health and care for years to come, shaped by the nursing and midwifery standards she has led to fruition. Everyone owes her a debt of gratitude.’
As a registered nurse, Professor Walters specialised in cardiology, and has held executive nurse director roles in acute NHS trusts, including as director of nursing at both St George’s Hospital NHS Trust and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
Meanwhile, she has been a visiting professor at Buckinghamshire New University and at King’s College London’s Florence Nightingale School.
Professor Walters said she felt ‘very fortunate’ to have spent the last six years of her career working at the NMC, having been a registered nurse since 1979. It ‘developed my own understanding of the importance of professional regulation,’ she said.
‘I’d like to thank all those NMC colleagues who have taught, guided and helped me, as well as our Council members – past and present – for their unfailing support.’
She said she has ‘felt privileged’ to work closely with senior professional leaders across the four UK nations, and those in the education sector. ‘I’d like to thank them for their wise counsel and their positive influence and support for the work we have done, and for their patience and tolerance and willingness to work together on issues that have been complex and controversial,’ Prof Walters said.
‘Finally, I’d like to pay tribute to all the nurses, midwives and nursing associates on our register, and those students who aspire to join it during these challenging times. You are invaluable – be proud of what you achieve, and be confident in your professionalism and your worth to people’s health and wellbeing.’
Sir David Warren, chair of the NMC Council, said he has witnessed what a ‘major impact’ Prof Walters has had on nursing and midwifery practice, and how ‘committed she is to upholding excellence in those professions and to supporting them as actively as possible.’
He said: ‘Gerry is our most senior registered professional, and she has ensured that the voice of our registrants has been heard in all our most important discussions.
‘She has provided exceptional professional leadership at a difficult time, and is massively respected, inside and outside our organisation. It has been a privilege to work with her.’
The NMC will start the process to recruit a new executive director of professional practice in the week commencing 11 July. The role description and application details will be available on the NMC’s website.