Hard work of Northern Ireland nursing staff celebrated at Buckingham Palace
Nurses from Northern Ireland were among those celebrated by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace last night.
Front line hospital staff were thanked by the royal family at the event after a punishing winter for healthcare workers.
Roisin Devlin, the lead nurse for emergency departments in the South Eastern Trust, said she had a lovely evening mingling with royalty, including the Countess of Wessex (below).
"They stayed longer than they should have because Charles was going round talking to so many people," she said.
"He gave a short speech at the end and told us that he was rushed to hospital with appendicitis as a child."
The Prince told NHS staff that he will "never forget the kindness he was shown" by nurses at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.
"He wanted us to know that we were very much appreciated and that our work doesn't go unnoticed," Ms Devlin added.
She said the gesture came on the back of an "exceptionally difficult" winter for emergency care providers.
"To have an event to celebrate that is fantastic and I'm very humbled and privileged to represent emergency services," she added.
Ms Devlin said an international shortage of nurses had made providing emergency care even more pressured in recent months.
"Every single day nurses are going above and beyond the call of duty of what they would normally do," she explained.
"It needs to be understood that they do that because they really care for their patients and want to do the very best they can.
"The fact that Prince Charles and the royal family understand that is a very positive message."
Ms Devlin said December and January had seen high volumes of seriously ill patients coming through the doors of A&E, a situation made worse by staff sickness.
"It's very difficult to switch off after the end of a busy shift when you go home," she added.
"You're still worrying about your colleagues and how many more patients are coming through the door.
"So even when you're not at work you're still thinking about work."
Dermatology nurse David Ferran qualified in 2016 after a 10-year period as a health and care support worker in Belfast.
He said: "Where I work it's not quite as pressurised as the emergency departments, but I do help by working extra shifts where I can.
"It has been a very difficult winter.
"I'm a board member with the Royal College of Nursing, so I'm aware of the experiences of many nurses in the job.
"It's a very important morale boost to have this event after such a difficult winter.
"To know the royal family recognises the contribution of front line nurses means a lot."
The heir to the throne met more than 350 nurses from across the UK last night, including first responders to last year's terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire.
He said he was "astounded" by the stories from individuals responding to "harrowing incidents".