15 April 2019

Hospice at home pioneer retires

Sue Varvel, Director of Nursing and Clinical Services at Rennie Grove Hospice Care has announced her retirement after 31 years as a palliative care nurse working in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.

 sue_varvel

From the early days when she joined the five original pioneer nurses who’d formed the then Iain Rennie Hospice at Home, to the present day as Director of Nursing at Herts and Bucks based Rennie Grove and President of the National Association of Hospice at Home, Sue has devoted her career to promoting the type of hospice care that gives people the choice to be cared for out of hospital and supported to remain at home with their families.

Sue was one of the first people in the country to obtain a Master’s degree in hospice leadership and now, as she prepares to bring her career to a close, her passion for making a positive difference to patients who are nearing the end of their lives as well as to their families and friends is just as strong as it was when she started.

 Co-President and Iain's wife Moira Rennie with Sue Varvel

Her vision and leadership helped shape an evolving model of 24/7 care which was built upon the belief that people have the right to choose to be cared for at home long before it became part of the national agenda. At a time when the challenges of our ever-increasing health needs are becoming more and more apparent, Rennie Grove is a beacon of best practice in providing high quality, patient-centred hospice at home care.

Sue’s total dedication to this type of care has seen her undertake a number of personal challenges - like a teaching expedition to Sierra Leone and India to help hospice at home services in the developing world and a trek in Peru raising money to enable the charity to continue its work and raising awareness people can experience a good death following a great life.

 Sue Varvel at Taj Mahal

To reflect her passion for developing nursing skills and following an initial donation from Sue, Rennie Grove nurses will be able to benefit from the “Sue Varvel Bursary”.

Sue said, “I have been so lucky to have had chances during my career to develop as a nurse and I really hope that by setting up this bursary, others will also have the opportunity to further their learning and flourish as nurses. It will be very sad to leave everyone at Rennie Grove but I know the charity is in good hands and will continue to offer valuable support to local families when it matters most.”

Stewart Marks, Chief Executive at Rennie Grove said: “Sue has played a major role in the evolution of the charity we know today from the moment she joined the first group of nurses working as Hospice at Home pioneers in the 1980s.

“Thirty one years of service later, the awe and admiration Sue had in those early days of Hospice at Home provision, its principles of care and the close team working of our dedicated staff remain as strong as ever.

“Rennie Grove Hospice Care’s services have benefited, grown and developed as a result of Sue’s dedication, hard work and determination to do her utmost for patients and their families, not only in our immediate working area but across the UK. Those of us who have had the privilege to work with Sue will miss her immensely but her legacy remains and we all wish her a very happy and well-deserved retirement.”

 David gets a hug from Sue

Sam Howard has been appointed as Rennie Grove’s new Director of Nursing Patient Services and will take ​on the role following Sue Varvel’s retirement in early May.