A recently retired Donegal nurse has been awarded an MBE for her services to cardiology nursing.

Originally from Ballyshannon, but now living in Enniskillen, Sr Marian Doogan has worked as a nurse in the Cardiology Department at the Erne Hospital, now known as the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH), for over 40 years.

Sr Marian Doogan – Photo: Western Health and Social Care Trust

In a remarkable career, Marian was the first cardiac nurse to administer life-saving clot drugs in the UK while working on a nurse led mobile cardiac unit where there were no doctors present.

Before retiring in March 2021, Marian had worked as a nurse at the Erne Hospital for 43 years, and in total she has been in nursing for a remarkable 48 years, having trained and qualified at the Dick Whittington Hospital in London.

On her arrival at the Erne in Enniskillen, she nursed in the surgical ward, moving quickly to the medical ward before studying cardiology in the City Hospital, Belfast.

Her work in cardiology began in 1982, when the coronary care unit was set up, led by Dr Varma, who she describes as “a far-seeing and progressive consultant”. It included four nurses, among them Marian. This unit went on to save numerous lives and reduce cardiac disease across Fermanagh.

Marian’s most recent role was as a clinical sister within the Cardiology Department where she worked alongside a team of trained cardiac nurses.

Speaking about her award Marian said: “I am extremely honoured to have received this award, however I always felt that I was very much part of an inclusive and supportive team. From the very start, for example I was very fortunate to have the most eminent, far-seeing, progressive consultant in Dr Varma.”

“Along with Professor Varma and Dr McAleer and three nursing colleagues, we were a strong team leading cardiology in the early 1980’s.”

Only two years later, after the unit was set up, the mobile coronary care ambulance was launched, it was fully equipped with monitors, defibrillators and cardiac drugs and was led by a doctor and a cardiac nurse.

This mobile ambulance was a huge breakthrough, travelling often at night along lonely remote roads. “You never knew what you would be met with,” Marian says, quickly adding: “We had plenty of encounters with cross dogs!”

The mobile coronary care ambulance was a really major move by the hospital and clearly something which Marian is particularly proud of as she knows better than most that it helped save lives.

Marian continued: “As I said before we had some nail-biting experiences, but very fulfilling, particularly when the patient made a full recovery. As a nurse-led team we brought the hospital to the patient’s home, we stabilised them and administered cardiac drugs if required allowing us to get them back to the hospital safely for further management.”

Commenting on her selection by the Queen for an MBE, she said she had in fact met the Queen a number of times but this was special and she was both “delighted and honoured,” adding “this really is an award to be shared by everyone who was involved over the years working with me, it is all about teamwork.”

While Covid-19 restrictions put some doubt on how Marian will receive her physical award, she says she is hoping to have to make a trip to Buckingham Palace at some stage. “The awarding of the MBE is impacted by Covid-19 restrictions, but you never know, there might be a day out, who knows!”