Surgical Sisters Dedicated to a Life of Nursing

12th May 2022

The ‘Surgical Sisters’ are a family of nurses who grew up together, studied together and now nurse together.  Andrea Cook, her sister Lynne Harbinson and cousin Karen Boudou all work together as Nurses within the Surgical Directorate in the Ulster Hospital.

Andrea who is the Lead Plastic Surgery Trauma Co-ordinator has been nursing for the last 16 years and graduated with her sister Lynne in 2006 with Karen graduating in 2005 a year ahead.  Andrea started out her nursing career in a management placement capacity within Plastic Surgery and knew this was the area she wanted to focus on, this is where she has stayed ever since.  She had a ward based role for five years and then applied for her current role as Lead Plastic Surgery Trauma Co-ordinator where she has been in the role for 10 years. The Plastic Surgery Trauma Clinic sees on average 3000 patients a year across Northern Ireland, with different types of hand injuries and lower limb trauma.  This role allows Andrea to engage with a range of patients across the region who have varying injuries, ensuring they get to theatre in a timely manner for treatment and also to hear the different stories patients have to tell about how they sustained their injury.

Speaking about her role, Andrea says, ”Working as a Nurse within the Surgical Directorate provides many opportunities.  It is a really caring speciality and Plastic Surgery is a really exciting place to work.  I love my job, I love the people I work with and I love to help people too.  Having my family so close to me is an extra added bonus!”

Andrea is continuing her career within the Surgical Directorate and in the coming weeks, will take on a secondment as a Sister on the Plastic Surgery ward within the Ulster Hospital.

Lynne a Ward Sister on the Trauma and Orthopaedic Ward within the Ulster Hospital, qualified as a Nurse 16 years ago and has been in her current role as a Sister for five years.  Lynne started out her nursing career as a management placement on a surgical ward within the Ulster Hospital. During that time as a Staff Nurse, Lynne studied for her nursing degree and decided whilst doing this, to progress her career within nursing management.  Lynne has remained within the surgical specialty of Trauma and Orthopaedics and enjoys the variety of the role.  She has just completed her Non-Medical Prescribing Course.

Speaking about having her family working so close, Lynne added, “It is good to have both Andrea and Karen in the same speciality and knowing that they are there for support or to have a chat.  The last couple of years have been tough and we have all dealt with the pandemic in different ways.”

Karen qualified as a Nurse in 2005 and her nursing career started out as a management placement on a General Surgery ward in the Ulster Hospital. Along with Lynne, during her time as a Staff Nurse on the ward, she completed her Nursing Degree and was a Sister on the General Surgery ward for the last 10 years.  As a Sister, Karen recently moved into a unit within the new Acute Services Block on the Ulster Hospital site.  The Surgical Admissions Unit manages patients who require emergency surgery immediately, are then stabilised and moved on to an inpatient ward.  Karen has also just completed her Non-Medical Prescribing Course.

Talking about the nursing family within the Trust, Karen said “We are all very much at home in the Ulster Hospital, we have been working together for so many years.  It is one of those hospitals that it is big enough with lots going on, but small enough that you know everyone.  We just fit so well into the Ulster Hospital nursing family!

“Our grandmother who looked after us and who sadly passed away in November, would be so proud of us all.”

The nursing legacy continues with Lynne’s daughter Sophie who is currently studying Mental Health Nursing in John Moore’s University in Liverpool.

The ‘Surgical Sisters’ story above demonstrates how the ‘Here for Life’ campaign, an initiative led by the Chief Nursing Officers of the UK and Ireland and the RCN Foundation, can help the general public develop a fuller understanding of the breadth and diversity of Nursing and Midwifery roles and expertise, and the impact that these professions have on individual patients/clients and on our society as a whole. It is hoped that the campaign will clearly articulate the professionalism, knowledge and expertise of Nurses and Midwives in supporting life at every stage and in a range of clinical and non-clinical settings, as well as their enduring, lifelong commitment to their professions.