One of our Clinical Education Development Specialists based at Clifton Education Centre has begun her well-earned retirement after 36 years of service dedicated to patient care and expanding the clinical horizons of our own frontline staff.
Rita Varnam joined EMAS in June 2007 after starting service with the NHS in September 1984.
Nichola Bramhall, Director of Quality Improvement and Patient Safety at EMAS said:
“Rita has been working closely with the Quality Directorate for the last five months and quickly became a highly valued and respected member of the team.
“Rita has played a pivotal role in facilitating the Learning from Events sessions that we introduced in July 2020.
“The sessions have been really well evaluated and are making a positive impact on the learning culture of the organisation and her tireless work behind the scenes to identify topics and plan the sessions has been what has made them successful.
“I would like to take the opportunity to thank Rita for her hard work and to wish her every happiness in her retirement and we will miss her very much.”
Rita Varnam (pictured third from the left) at the start of her nursing career
From a young age Rita knew she wanted to be a nurse, with many of her dolls having cuts and stitches drawn on them and her dog being the recipient of much of her bandaging.
Having her sights set on nursing and with helpful careers advice at school, Rita went off to follow her dream completing her Registered General Nurse (RGN) training. Qualifying as an RGN in December 1987, Rita then went on to qualify as Registered Sick Children's Nurse (RSCN) in April 1989.
Rita still has the silver buckle she received after she qualified, she added:
“All nurses that qualified would wear them on their belts as a badge of honour.
“They were seen as a rite of passage at the end of your student nursing career and they would usually be purchased by your parents who were very proud of your achievement."
Rita still has her silver belt buckle she received when she qualified as a nurse, alongside her first fob watch and long service award medal
Rita has seen first-hand the changes that have happened across the NHS ranging from how training is delivered to its newest recruits to today’s healthcare demands on the system, saying:
“When I worked in A&E as nurse at the start of my career you would normally see around 20 patients throughout your entire shift.
“Staff working in A&E today would probably see double the amount of those patients within the first hour of their shifts.
“Since joining the NHS, the biggest change I have seen is nurse autonomy and the rise in professionalism.
“As a student nurse I spoke to the staff nurse, who spoke to the Ward Sister who spoke to the Doctor.
“Now a nurse wouldn't think twice about going directly to the consultant to discuss their clinical observations or to gain a second opinion.
“The boundaries are much more blurred now between the professions and there is more of a mutual respect between all clinicians no matter what your job title may be, we are one NHS whose common focus is delivering outstanding patient care."
Rita decided to transfer her career towards educating the next generation of clinicians after spotting an advert that was calling for enthusiastic tutors who could engage students with the modules that they needed to learn in order to be fully equipped with the knowledge needed to provide emergency care on the frontline.
Rita added: “I had dabbled in teaching while I was a nurse but before joining EMAS I had never specialised in pre-hospital care.
“To me this felt like a natural progression in the next stage of my career by imparting my years of clinical experience to the next generation.
“After starting my role with EMAS I completed the ICHD paramedic course in order for me to gain a better understanding and perspective of the realities of working on the emergency frontline, so I could better support my students.
“As a paediatric nurse and having worked in paediatric ED, it was great to be able to pass on my experience and knowledge to all grades of staff in the ambulance service to expand their skills when providing medical care to child patients.”
Reflecting on her time working with EMAS, she said:
"It's been an absolutely wonderful chapter in my NHS career, full of opportunities and I have worked with amazing people along the way."
Rita purchased a caravan during the last lockdown (she called it Rhoda as it was purchased from a refund from a cancelled holiday to Rhodes). The plan for her retirement is to tour some of the beautiful English countryside when the current lockdown has ended.
While no-one could have ever factored in COVID-19 as part of their retirement, Rita is taking it all in her stride, adding:
“It’s just an unprecedented situation at the moment and while I’d love to be able to start enjoying the getaways, I know it's important that we continue to do the right thing to protect the NHS and save lives, so I will be staying at home and staying put for as long as it takes.
“Hope is definitely on the horizon and all we can do is keep our fingers crossed and remain patient while the NHS continues to work hard in its rollout of the vaccination programme.”
While Rita will now have more time to pursue her passions in life, she has decided to work with us on a part-time basis until March in order to support her colleagues with finalising important training modules.
Kerry Gulliver, Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development at EMAS said:
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rita for her many years of hard work and for the enormous contribution she has made, especially within the Education Team.
"Rita is a dedicated and hardworking professional who has been inspirational to many of her colleagues and students by sharing her clinical expertise with many clinicians throughout her years at EMAS.
"The clinical education team at EMAS will truly miss her and would like to both recognise her unwavering contribution, whilst also wishing her a restful and enjoyable retirement.
"On behalf of the HR, the OD Directorate and the whole of EMAS, our very best wishes go to Rita."