Barbara Robertson MacKinnon was born on the Isle of Skye. Her first language was Gaelic. She trained at the Royal Infirmary in Greenock in 1943 and worked there until 1947. She then worked at the Bellshill Maternity Hospital from October 1948 to November 1949. She was a district nurse from January 1953 to May 1953 and then became a Staff Nurse at the Infirmary in Greenock from October 1947 to October 1948. After this, she worked at a number of hospitals and as a district nurse in several areas in Scotland, including hospitals in Inverness, Moray and Nairn, John Martin Hospital on the Isle of Skye, Argyll and Bute, Dr Grays Hopsital in Moray, and the Orkney Islands. She finished her career by working at the Nursing Offices in Orkney until 1981.