Sunderland Afghanistan hero and Queen’s Honorary Nurse in line for award

Sharon McDowell
Sharon McDowell

A NURSE by Royal appointment has told of her remarkable career - and described the day she first met the Queen.

Sharon McDowell, 54, from Sunderland Royal Hospital, is one of a select few people to hold the title of the Queen’s Honorary Nurse.

Sharon McDowell

Sharon McDowell

She leads the medical provision at events where senior members of the Royal family are in attendance.

Sharon remembered the day she got to meet Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth for the first time - in a corridor at Windsor Castle.

“It was on my first investiture. I was taken out into the chapel. I was looking down this long corridor and the Queen was walking towards me.

“I am thinking ‘I can’t believe it, this is the Queen!’

“She was with her equerry and four or five other people. She asked me what I did, where I worked and she asked about my experiences in the NHS, and she was lovely.

“It was so surreal and when she went, I just thought ‘I can’t believe that just happened.’”

Sharon, who lives in South Shields and hails originally from Ovington in Northumberland, has enjoyed a career filled with illustrious positions.

As well as being the Queen’s Honorary Nurse for the Army Reserve, she was in charge of the hospital at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, in 2012.

She was in charge of a team dealing with patients with injuries caused by gun shots and mine explosions.

It was one of three deployments she’s had as part of the 201 Field Hospital Army Reserve which she first joined 26 years ago as a lieutenant, rising to commander of the unit. Other deployments have seen her work in Afghanistan and Iraq.

She said: “Being in charge of the hospital at Camp Bastion was amazing and it was a privileged position. We were providing medical care for war casualties.”

Sharon is also the matron on the trauma and orthopaedic ward at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

She has been at the hospital for ten years and joined as a ward sister.

Now Sharon is hoping to add a Sunderland Echo Best of Health award to her many achievements.

Her nomination read: “To Sharon this is just her job. During her years serving Sharon has seen her fair share of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, treating hundreds some with horrific injuries.

“I nominated Sharon because I do believe as locals we don’t always see the fantastic job a person has done and continues to do. Sunderland Royal Hospital are blessed to have the expertise of such a nurse in their workforce.”

Sharon said: “It is lovely that someone has recognised what I have done but I feel quite humbled about it.”

She is one of an impressive number of entries which we have already received in this year’s Best of Health awards. We want more.

It’s easy to nominate and you can do it either by using the form on this page or by going online. Feel free to put forward as many of your favourite health workers as you think deserve honours.

All entries must be received by March 20. After that, a panel of judges will meet around a week later to begin the difficult task of narrowing down the field.

They will draw up a shortlist in each of our categories. And all those who make it to the shortlist will be invited to the finals at the Stadium of Light on April 16.

•Enter your nominations here