Island Medics

Broadcasting Monday 12th November on BBC One Available on BBC iPlayer

Enjoying the series?
Fancy working with the Island Medics in Shetland? Here you can meet the people you’ve seen on screen. Find out more about the isles’ emergency medical services, and the lives led by doctors, nurses, paramedics and our other health care professionals.

All in a Shetland day’s work for the Island Medics

The BBC One series Island Medics provides a real insight into the lives and work of Shetland’s doctors, nurses, paramedics and other frontline emergency professionals.

Watch series on BBC BBC iPlayer

Episode Guide

Seasons 1,2

Meet The Stars of The Show

Thelma Irvine

Emergency Nurse Practitioner

How did you come to be an Emergency Nurse Practitioner?

I worked in Theatre and Accident and Emergency for several years, before I decided to study to be an Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP) in Accident and Emergency. After working in Aberdeen for a few years I chose to come and work in Shetland because it was home, where I grew up and went to school.

How does working in Shetland differ from working in Aberdeen?

Working in Shetland differs from other places I have worked in that it is remote and rural, so we see a lot of variety in our work. It can be very challenging at times as we can be the first port of call for some seriously injured trauma patients. We see patients brought in from the North Sea with either oil or fishing related injuries as well as other serious trauma/ medical conditions from the islands itself.

What’s the most challenging thing about your role?

I guess the most challenging thing about the role is dealing with major trauma. Being an ENP and having the autonomy to see and treat patients with minor injuries, such as lacerations or fractured wrists/ankles is very satisfying though.

How many patients do you see in a year?

We see and treat approximately 7,000 new casualties a year.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is being able to help people and make them feel better. Shetland is a very friendly place to live and work, it has a lot to offer with always something to do. It has a great community spirit, lots of outdoor pursuits, beautiful scenery not to mention the excellent wild life and is famous for its music and knitting. Working at the Gilbert Bain is a very varied and rewarding experience.


Aimee Sutherland

Senior Charge Nurse

How did you come to be a Senior Charge Nurse?

I started as a Health Care Assistant in Theatre, and then trained with Open University and got a job as a Staff Nurse. The training took four years, (plus a fifth for my Honours Degree), and all of my placements were in Shetland, so that allowed me to study and work, as well as be at home with my family. After that I went on to be Senior Staff Nurse, and now I’m Senior Charge Nurse – working here has given me the opportunity to develop and rise fairly quickly.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I really enjoy my job, there can be days when you don't want to go to work like any job, but it is such a great team. Everyone helps everyone, from porters and domestics up to the most senior staff in the hospital, everyone chips in and does what's needed, even if it's just making someone a cup of tea, everyone really rallies together and gets on really well. There’s such a strong sense of community, in Shetland and in the hospital. You're all in it together and you're all so close and keep each other going on the tough days.

What’s the most challenging thing about your job?

The most challenging thing is that this is a small community so you always have a connection to people or know something about them, nobody is really a stranger. So when there is any trauma or tragedy, that is a bit of a double edged thing. It can often be a comfort and a help that people in crisis know you and see you as a friendly face, but also you're living in the same community as that family so it affects you, and you always have that reminder.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’m a committee member for the Simmer Dim Rally, and I love to get out and about around Shetland with the campervan, walking the dogs and taking photos. I’ve also recently started horse riding again. I’m expecting my first grandchild next year, so I’m currently knitting my first ever Shetland Shawl – the staff in the hospital have all been great at helping me with my knitting when we have a quiet moment!


Dr Kushik Lalla

General Practitioner

You are originally from South Africa. How did you find your way up to Shetland and what enticed you to stay?

I came originally to do a locum contract and loved the place and people. Having worked elsewhere in the UK, I found Shetland much better. I met my wife whilst operating in theatre (she’s a theatre scrub nurse) and decided to stay.

Can you tell us a little bit about a usual shift at the hospital or what your job entails?

The job varies from day to day and no two days are the same. I can be called on to see patients in A&E, the wards, theatre, outpatients. The day starts with a review of all patients seen the previous day in A&E and a discussion around admitted patients. This is followed by a ward round where all patients who have been admitted are seen and ongoing care planned. I then go to either theatre, the outpatient clinic or A&E. Following this we usually have a teaching session for junior doctors around 2pm. Then it’s back to A&E. I’m supposed to finish at 4pm but usually end the day around 6-7pm. Then it’s home to the family.

Do you think you could go and work in a mainland hospital now? What department would you prefer to work in?

Yes, I think I would be able to work in a mainland hospital. However, I’d be frustrated dealing with only one area of medicine and for that reason I’d probably choose A&E where presentations are still varied.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Helping people who then say “thank you”.

What are the challenges?

Having enough time in my day to do all the paperwork associated with it! Just being left to do my job instead of having to fill in endless pieces of worthless paper would be nice.

Was it strange to be followed by cameras for the series? What did the rest of the staff and patients think?

Yes very!! It somehow makes things seem artificial. I am now aware how strange I sound on camera! The staff and patients varied in their opinions. Some were for it, others against.

In the series we see you mentoring other medical staff - how important is it to you to develop other medical professionals on the islands and why?

This is one of the core activities we undertake. It not only teaches the next generation of doctors but we try to encourage them to come back and work on the island long term. Like most places in the UK we are desperately short of doctors. The island offers a great experience and working here is special. Current UK training seems to be falling short on a number of fronts and hopefully we are able to show what is possible.


Hannah McCluskey


How many babies are delivered on Shetland in a week/month/year?

Last year we looked after 278 pregnant women in Shetland with approximately two-thirds delivering here and one-third in Aberdeen due to need for consultant obstetric or neonatal facilities.

Do you think the population on the islands is increasing or decreasing?

I feel that it is increasing, it certainly feels busier or at least the same from when I was here as a student midwife.

Tell us about a particularly challenging time you have faced at work.

I feel for me I’ve been challenged a lot recently, moving midwifery posts whilst still being newly qualified has been hard, but I’m slowly gaining in confidence again. Getting to know a new area and having to consolidate my skills for all round midwifery, rather than just one area of practice as I had in my previous post. Getting to know the policies for the island and what changes this presents for rural midwifery compared to midwifery in an obstetric unit.

What is the best thing about your job?

I think the best thing is really getting to know the women and being with them throughout their journey towards becoming a family. There’s something special about being with women throughout pregnancy, birth and in the early stages of parenthood.

Why did you choose to work on Shetland as opposed to a mainland community?

I chose to work in Shetland because of how much I value the continuity seeing women and the amount of time I can spend with them. As a midwife on the mainland I felt that I gave the very best care I could in a busy environment, but I thought I could always give more but was restricted by the workload. For me as a midwife, it was important for me to be able to build relationships over time and to get to know the families you care for well.

I felt that it was an important and scary decision for me to make as a newly qualified midwife to uproot my life and move to Shetland alone, but it’s how I’d like to base my career and how I want to continue my path as a midwife.


Emma Davis


What are the main challenges of your job and are there any of these which relate particularly to being in Shetland?

The main challenge I face being a Paramedic is critically ill patients. In these situations I become very aware that my patient’s life is quite literally in my hands. Paramedics across the country meet critically ill patients every day however certain factors about living and working in Shetland make these patients a little bit more difficult to manage, including the geography of the island. For example, I can be an hour away from hospital along single track roads with no radio or mobile phone signal with a seriously ill patient which is a daunting experience and adds a little extra pressure.

Another factor is the amount of resources available in Shetland – having only two ambulances (four members of staff) on shift at any one time it can be more difficult to deal with serious incidents than the equivalent situation on the mainland. If we need any more than this luckily we can rely on the goodwill of our colleagues who don’t mind being called from home any time of day or night to attend a major incident. We can also get support flown up from the Mainland, but that obviously takes a while to happen.

The final challenge that comes with working in Shetland is I am very often called to somebody I know, or a relative of somebody I know. This without a doubt adds an extra level of pressure.

How many paramedics are there in the area?

In Lerwick we have 10 Paramedics and five Technicians.

What was your route into the profession?

I studied Nursing at Glasgow Caledonian University and moved to Oxford and worked for 13 months as a staff nurse on a surgical urology ward after graduating.

In 2011 I left nursing to pursue my dream to become a Paramedic. I joined South Central Ambulance Service as an Emergency Care Assistant which I did for just over a year then joined the Scottish Ambulance Service to do my technician training. I moved home to Shetland to work at Lerwick Ambulance Station once this was completed.

I then did my Paramedic training qualifying in 2015 so I have been qualified as a Paramedic for just over two years.

In January 2017 I started my training to become a Specialist Paramedic. I should qualify as a Specialist in Jan 2018 (If I pass all my exams!! No pressure).

Are you looking forward to seeing yourself in the programme?

I think I am more nervous about seeing myself on the programme. I think it will be quite eye opening to see myself doing my job. Shetland being Shetland as well EVERYONE will be tuning in!!!


Dr Saul Wilson

General Practitioner

Why did you decide to go into medicine?

There’s not a straightforward answer! It was an opportunity to challenge myself in a subject area that I've always been interested in. But the unique thing about medicine is that it's so varied, and you have so many different options about what area to specialise in and the path to take to get there.

Do you think you get to experience more practical learning in Gilbert Bain than you have in other hospitals on your rotation?

Definitely. At times the junior doctor is the only doctor on-site so our skill set has to be extremely varied. The exposure to clinical situations and the willingness of seniors to teach has meant that my practical skills have increased tenfold.

What would be your advice to someone considering studying medicine in the future?

If you're sure, go for it. If you're not sure, do some work experience/shadowing to get a real insight into what doctors actually do.

What is the most interesting thing you got to work on while in Shetland?

Probably one of the many patients that have come in with injuries that require immediate treatment in A&E, e.g. joint dislocations that need relocating or lacerations that need stitching.

What did you do in your spare time – pick up any new hobbies?

Spare time?! I did what I always do - relax and socialise with friends. But working in a new place meant that there were new friends to be made and new places to see.


Behind the scenes at NHS Shetland

We talk to some of the show’s stars ‘off air’, and meet some of the healthcare heroes who didn’t make it onto the telly. What’s it really like to to move to Shetland, to live and raise your family in the islands? Listen to the stories, hear staff’s experience of working for NHS Shetland - and imagine: you could be here too!


There are vacancies in Shetland’s health services right now, in a wide variety of roles and locations - ones you could fill. Examples include:
Ref IRC17642

GP Opportunity in Brae

A thriving rural practise located in the village of Brae, the largest settlement in Shetland’s north mainland.
Salary up to £94,543 per annum. Generous annual leave entitlement Relocation Allowance of up to £8,000 .
source: NHS Shetland
Ref IRC17642

GP Opportunity in Unst

An opportunity to practice in the UKs northernmost community the spectacular island of Unst, serving the islands 600 residents.
Salary up to £94,543 per annum. Generous annual leave entitlement Relocation Allowance of up to £8,000 .
source: NHS Shetland
Ref IRC17642

GP Opportunity in Walls

The practice in Walls is set in a picturesque village with houses built along the shores of the voe, or sea inlet.
Salary up to £94,543 per annum. Generous annual leave entitlement Relocation Allowance of up to £8,000 .
source: NHS Shetland
Ref IRC17642

GP Opportunity in Whalsay

Known locally as ‘Da Bonnie Isle’ (the beautiful island), Whalsay is the centre of Shetland’s fishing industry, home to a thriving community of over 1000 people.
Salary up to £94,543 per annum. Generous annual leave entitlement Relocation Allowance of up to £8,000 .
source: NHS Shetland
Ref IRC17642

GP Opportunity in Yell

Located in Mid-Yell the practice provides services to the residents of Yell and Fetlar, serving a population of approximately 1027 people.
Salary up to £94,543 per annum. Generous annual leave entitlement Relocation Allowance of up to £8,000 .
source: NHS Shetland
There are other current opportunities too. Sign up below for more information and to receive future updates about new NHS Shetland vacancies.

Would You Like To Be An Island Medic?

If you're interested in making the movie to Shetland, or you know someone who might be, sign up to our 'Island Medics' email newsletter.

We'll send you regular updates about jobs with NHS Shetland and the Emergency Services, as well as every aspect of moving to, and living in, the islands, including useful information about housing, schools and all the other important, practical things you'll want to consider.

You might also want to join our Living and Working in Shetland Facebook group. Or, if you just want an answer to a specific question to help you make progress with your plans, please feel free to contact us at any time by emailing us at

Life in Shetland: what’s it like?

Shetland has, for many medical professionals, provided not just great job satisfaction, but a fulfilling and thrilling way of life for them and their families, in a unique island environment:

Welcoming, sociable people

Shetland has a long tradition of local friendship for folk who come to stay on the islands. There’s a real, warm sense of openness, community and belonging, with informal social events, a strong commitment to neighbourliness and a willingness to ‘go the extra mile’ for each other. You’ll always be welcome here.

Vibrant Culture

More than just vikings. Though we do like our winter fire festivals! Shetland is famed worldwide for its folk music traditions, particularly the fiddle, which are alive and flourishing. Art, design and crafts, especially knitting, attract international interest and our literature, theatrical and film making scenes are thriving. As for history - it’s spectacular and we have lots of it!

Clean Seas

Shetland’s North Atlantic and North Sea environment is among the cleanest in the world, offering access to some of the freshest and best seafood you’ll ever taste and unsurpassed opportunities for adventurous ocean play. But we like to keep our stunning, publicly accessible loch angling kind of secret! Wild swimming? There's none wilder.

Nature at its most abundant

The islands offer contrasts, from fertile seaside gardens - and yes, we do have trees - to the arctic tundra of Ronas Hill, the heathery wetlands, soaring cliffs and golden beaches. And the wildlife-viewing opportunities include world-class bird and whale and dolphin watching, seals by the supermarket car park and sometimes otters in your back garden.

Tremendous leisure opportunities

Shetland has thriving and competitive individual and team sports, from football, rugby and hockey to cycling, martial arts and badminton. Thanks to the wise investment of oil industry income, the isles have a phenomenal set of leisure centres for our 22,000 people - eight, all including modern heated swimming pools, gyms and much more. State of the art indoor and outdoor sports pitches too.

Excellent educational and social facilities

Our schools are modern - including the brand new Anderson High School in Lerwick and a range of courses at Shetland College and the NAFC Marine Centre, both part of the University of the Highlands and Islands. Mareel in Lerwick is an ultra modern cinema, music,recording and performance venue, and a network of community halls covers the island, offering a range of social events. Shetland is famed for its annual festivals, from folk to cinema.
A place where families and individuals can live life to the full.
Get regular updates about future medical and emergency services job vacancies in Shetland.