Finding her passion in nursing

A young Port Alfred farm girl who wanted to do something care-related after leaving school has ended up as a highly qualified nursing sister through sheer hard work and dedication.

TOP NURSING SISTER: Highly qualified nursing sister, Susan McGarvie, at her desk as manager of the Care Centre at Settlers Park Picture: BOB FORD

She is Susan McGarvie, who is the Care Centre manager at Settlers Park retirement village.

Born in Grahamstown (Makhanda) and educated at Victoria Girls High and Port Alfred High, McGarvie did not really know what she wanted to do after she matriculated in 1995. So she registered at Rhodes University to study for a BSc degree. “It was during this year that I realised that I wanted to do something more care-related and decided I wanted to do a nursing degree,” she said.

Rhodes did not offer this and after completing a year, she moved to Stellenbosch where she was able to do the degree of her choice. Being a farm girl, she wanted to be closer to home and moved to the University of Port Elizabeth after a year, where she successfully completed her degree over the next three years. Her main subjects included general nursing, midwifery, psychology and primary health care.

Fresh out of university and armed with her degree she set off to Johannesburg where she worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for babies in Sandton. “I chose this because midwifery was my best subject at university,” she added.

But McGarvie had a student loan hanging over her head and she had a yearning to travel. So she set off to England to do home nursing in 2002 for about a year. She said that, although this was tough at times, she gained excellent experience during the time she was there.

On her return to South Africa she returned to Johannesburg where she worked at a specialist birthing clinic for more than a year. But she wanted to gain more experience and spent the last four years in the city when she concentrated on oncology at the Johannesburg General Hospital.

By then McGarvie had had enough of the bright lights of a large city and wanted to come home to the family farm in the Eastern Cape.  Back in more familiar surroundings, she worked in a township clinic in Port Alfred. She then worked for the National Hospice Association where she assisted in developing new branches in the Eastern Cape. She also helped them achieve five star accreditation and did audits all over the country. She also worked for the Hospice Palliative Care Association.

McGarvie explained that she matured late academically and had a yearning to study further. Undeterred by the fact that she had a busy working life she completed an honours degree in psychology in three years through Unisa and also a three-year masters degree in Palliative Care by correspondence with the University of Cape Town.

For good measure, while in Johannesburg, she obtained a business management certificate through Wits University. As if this was not sufficient she also wrote a book she called “De-stress Your Dissertation: A mindful approach to mediating the rigours of post-grad research.” She also has her own e-book on Amazon.

In 2016, McGarvie moved to St Francis Bay with her partner, James Briggs, who has his own agricultural development and irrigation design business. While there she did private counseling and coaching.

McGarvie also enjoys travelling and has visited the United Kingdom (twice), France (three times), Mauritius, Malawi and Kenya.

She joined the Settlers Park management staff last year and immediately made her presence felt in the Care Centre.

She lives with her parents at Barville Park near Port Alfred, one of only a few fortified farms remaining in the Eastern Cape.


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