“My love is leg ulcers” is not a sentence you’ll hear many people say.
But then again Ally Lister is not many people, she is one of just 110 Queen’s Nurses in Scotland, a title which recognises excellence in community nursing.
“I’ve always had a passion for leg ulcer management,” says Ally, 54, from Huntly, who laughs when I put to her that she’s definitely not squeamish.
“I like the fact that it’s easy to get the treatment of leg ulcers right and help them to heal up so you make such a difference to their life.”
74 years of the NHS
Caring, compassionate and tirelessly dedicated, Ally is just one of thousands of hero healthcare professionals who go above and beyond for poorly patients across the north and north-east of Scotland day in and day out.
As this month marks the 74th anniversary of the NHS (July 5), we’re shining a light on Ally, who works for NHS Grampian as a lead nurse manager in Moray Health and Social Care Partnership, and Lynne MacDonald, an advanced nurse practitioner with NHS Highland who works in some of the most remote places in the north-east.
Kindly giving up her lunch break to speak to Your Life, Ally, a mum-of-two, says nursing felt like her calling in life.
“My mum was a nurse and when I was little I remember her getting ready to go to work and telling us funny stories about it,” says Ally.
“The honest answer is I don’t know why I went into nursing but I just felt that that was where I needed and wanted to be.”
For the past 33 years, Ally has poured her heart and soul into helping people, working as a district nurse for years before being seconded into her current role which involves her having the professional responsibility for the nurses within the community hospitals and within the community nursing teams.
Queen’s Nurse award
Her endless commitment to the profession was recognised in 2017 when she became one of the first tranche of contemporary Queen’s Nurses in Scotland, taking part in a nine-month development programme run by the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland (QNIS).
“I was really fortunate that I was one of 20 that went through that first cohort and I felt very inspired by that programme,” says Ally.
“I felt that it gave me different tools to go on and influence that patient journey and the journey for my staff and team as well.”
Describing Covid as a “scary” time, Ally was the calm in the storm for her team of staff.
“There was a lot of frustrations along the way with the pandemic, for example having to wear face masks meant that communicating was always harder,” says Ally, who is married to Tim and has two grown-up children, Stuart, 19, and Ailsa, 18.
“Particularly when it comes to end-of-life care as you want to give their loved ones a bosie and just tell them it’s OK and we couldn’t do that.
“But we found other ways to make a difference to that person and that might be just spending an extra five minutes in the house, having a chat or whatever.”
Rural support team
Just as dedicated is Lynne MacDonald, an advanced nurse practitioner from Invermoriston, who works in the NHS Highland Rural Support Team covering everywhere from Torridon to Eigg and Canna.
“The rural support team is a team of advanced nurses and paramedics who support the surgeries that are run by the NHS Highland in the west so that can be anywhere from Torridon to Applecross and also I work out in the small isles,” says Lynne.
“I love what I do – I have quite a unique job.”
On dry land and by boat, Lynne, 58, rarely travels under 1,000 miles a month as she takes the lifeline service out into rural communities, working closely with local GPs.
“It’s really varied as I can look after anybody from nine months up to 90,” says Lynne, who has three sons Andrew, Calum and Ross with her husband Neil, a retired paramedic.
“A normal day is generally like a GP surgery so I’ll do phone calls, face-to-face assessments and because it’s quite remote and rural you can get emergencies through the door too.”
Lynne’s caring nature clearly runs through the family as her son Ross is currently training to be a nurse at Robert Gordon University.
“Ross is following in the family footsteps – I’m so proud of him.”