Shetland Health Board members said goodbye to Sandra Laurenson on Friday afternoon when she retired from the post of chief executive after almost 10 years.
Miss Laurenson worked for the NHS for almost 34 years, 25 of them in Shetland. Her first sister’s post came at the age of 23, when she was put in charge of eight surgical wards and a burns unit on night duty in Aberdeen.
She returned to Shetland in 1985 to take up a post as sister in Vaila Ward at Montfield Hospital, and she later worked as a sister at the Gilbert Bain Hospital before being appointed in 1990 as the senior nurse in charge of Montfield Hospital.
In 1992 Miss Laurenson established the board’s first quality co-ordinator post, and by 1994 she was combining the role with senior nurse at the Gilbert Bain. Not long after she was appointed to a director post and became an executive member of the board.
At that time she was also seconded for several months to the office of the then chief nurse based in St Andrew’s House. It was while in her role as the director of patient services that she successfully fought off strong competition to became chief executive.
Board chairman Ian Kinniburgh said: “There have been many changes since Sandra joined the NHS back in 1977, some positive, some less so, but what we do know are the great things we have seen under Sandra’s guidance as chief executive.
“To pick only a few of these, we have seen the fruition of the long held aspiration to get clinical services onto one site through a long and complex hospital capital plan, we now have a second ambulance for Shetland, and we have seen truly successful partnership working with Shetland Islands Council to shift the balance of care and ensure we no longer have patients waiting unnecessarily to be discharged from hospital.
“Something that may sometimes have been taken for granted over the years is how selflessly Sandra has thrown herself into her roles, and staff and Shetland folk have been hugely fortunate to have had such a committed chief executive looking out for them.”
Miss Laureson told colleagues, past and present, how she had decided to become a nurse at the age of four, and how she was thrilled to begin her training at the earliest possible time (aged 17 and a half).
She said: “I believe absolutely in the NHS and have worked in it more than half of the 62 years it has existed. I consider myself to have had a privileged career with good, interesting new jobs and opportunities always coming along at the right time.
“I have worked for the NHS in Shetland for over 25 years and am proud to have worked with so many dedicated people and have tried my best to serve the people of Shetland.”
Miss Laurenson’s successor, Ralph Roberts, will take up the role on 10th January. Until then Simon Bokor-Ingram will be acting up in his role as deputy chief executive.