17 September 2021

During a 34-year career that has taken her to the highest levels of nursing, Caroline Alexander CBE has worked across hospital-based patient care, in commissioner roles, and as a nursing manager and leader. Now the chief nurse for Barts Health NHS Trust has received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of East London in recognition of her achievements. 

Ms Alexander was honoured by the University at a ceremony for its School of Health, Sport and Bioscience on 13 September near the Docklands Campus. In her acceptance speech, Ms Alexander advised students to be at the forefront of the rapid changes the NHS is currently going through so that they can design a world they want to be a part of. 

Ms Alexander said, "How we treat and value our students reflects on us all.  I learned early as a student in the 80s what it was like to be bullied or ignored. I used all of this learning to inform how I would lead and who my role models would be. Again, this has stayed with me through my career and has shaped how I am as a leader and a nurse. 

"This pandemic has created an environment where no one has been totally confident and in control with all of the redeployment we have had to do. I think that has helped many staff to truly appreciate what it is like to be new and outside your comfort zone. Remember this as you embark on your career and support students yourselves."

Ms Alexander said the approach to patient care and attitudes to nursing and women in clinical professions has evolved since the start of her career. She remarked on how little the impact and value of nursing was considered when she started her career, and how, "If we can't demonstrate the value of nursing as I am challenged to do every day in my current role, we will always be vulnerable."

Ms Alexander also spoke about how the challenges of the pandemic had brought to the fore how essential good planning, communications, visible leadership, trust and partnership working has been central to how Barts and its partners have responded to the pandemic.  

Ms Alexander has been the chief nurse for Barts Health NHS Trust since 2016. In 2020 she was made a CBE in the Queen's birthday honours in recognition of her services to nursing.

Ms Alexander is part of the leadership team at Barts Health NHS Trust that oversaw a significant improvement in the performance of the Trust, from being placed in special measures to a thriving and healthy, first-class organisation.

She played a key role in helping the University of East London set up its department of nursing in January 2018. Over the past eighteen months, Ms Alexander has continued to work alongside the University to make sure students on clinical placements, on the frontline of the pandemic, are safe and supported. This includes not just nursing students from UEL, but allied health and sports students as well. 

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