Dame Donna, who has been acting chief executive since the end of August last year when Janet Davies stepped down, will take up the permanent post immediately.
Speaking on her new permanent position, Dame Donna said: “It is quite simply the best job in nursing and the greatest privilege to continue serving the RCN’s members at the highest level.”
“My every action will seek to boost their collective voice and leave others in no doubt at the true value of a cutting-edge and respected nursing workforce,” she said.
Dame Donna, who held the roles in an acting capacity since August 2018, has today vowed to build on her work of the past seven months.
“Every member of the RCN must see an organisation they are proud to be part of, and I see it as my duty to give them that faith”
She said: “In every country of the UK, our profession and those we care for are experiencing serious challenges that I am determined to continue addressing, building on my work of the last seven months.
“Every member of the RCN must see an organisation they are proud to be part of, and I see it as my duty to give them that faith as we rise to this challenge together,” she added.
Dame Donna was appointed following a “competitive selection process” conducted by the RCN council.
She joined the RCN as head of nursing in 2015, providing leadership to the nursing departments.
Before joining the royal college, she held a plethora of roles including: clinical director of emergency medicine at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust, executive director of nursing at Southeast London Cluster Board, and director of commissioning at London Borough of Southwark & Southwark PCT.
She was also the strategic commissioner for Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Health Authority’s Children’s Services.
“Donna will bring unparalleled experience to our organisation”
Dame Donna also advised the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery in 2010, and served as nurse/child health assessor to the Victoria Climbié Inquiry.
RCN chair of council Sue Warner said: “I am delighted to be able to confirm this appointment.
“These are challenging times for the nursing profession and Donna will bring unparalleled experience to our organisation,” she said.
“She has provided sterling leadership while carrying out the role in an acting capacity for the last eight months, which guided the college through a period of transition and helped rebuild the confidence of its membership,” said Ms Warner.
“The RCN is undertaking important campaigns to deliver safe staffing levels and a major increase in funding to train and retain the next generation of nurses,” she said. “I believe Donna’s experience and drive makes her uniquely qualified to deliver these objectives.”
Responding to the announcement, Nursing and Midwifery Council chief executive and registrar Andrea Sutcliffe said: “Congratulations to Donna on her appointment.
“Having established an excellent working relationship with her, I know Donna will continue to be a great advocate for the nursing profession and for the people nurses support,” she said.
She added: “I look forward to our two organisations working closely together at a time when nursing is so integral to the success of the UK’s health and care system.”
Ms Davies left the role in 2018 in the wake of anger from RCN members over how it communicated the delivery of the nurse pay deal that was agreed last year between unions, employers and the government.
Her sudden departure followed widespread anger and dismay after many nurses discovered they would be getting much less in their wage packets than expected.
All members were told they would get a 3% pay rise last summer but it subsequently turned out this was not the case with only half getting the rise straight away.