This article was submitted by Bluewater Health
At a gala hosted Friday night by St. Clair College, Sue Denomy, Bluewater Health President and CEO was honoured to receive an Alumni of Distinction Award. The award is presented annually to recognize accomplished graduates. Eighty-six such awards have been given in the areas of Health Sciences, Business, Technology, Community Studies and Creative Arts in the College’s 47-year history. Each recipient’s photo hangs in a gallery at the College’s campus in Windsor.
Sue was the second of six children born to Tom and Maxine Elliott. Her father, a feed and grain operator, and mother, a nurse, instilled a strong sense of values and leadership both within the family, and in community. “Having grown up in the 1960’s it was normal that women would pursue careers in either teaching or nursing,” Sue said during a recent interview. “Both are noble and compassionate careers, but I knew from a very young age that I wanted to follow in my mother’s footsteps and become a nurse.”
After attending secondary school at Lambton-Kent Composite School in Dresden, and Lambton Central Collegiate in Petrolia, Sue joined Public General Hospital’s School of Nursing in Chatham, which was then, a two-year program with approximately 35 students. In that time however, nursing schools transitioned to College programs with over 200 students. She graduated from nursing in 1974 when employment opportunities in nursing were plentiful.
Sue’s first nursing position was on the Inpatient Surgical Unit at Public General Hospital (PGH) in Chatham. She said, “Nursing was – and is – an extremely rewarding profession! I became very involved and engaged both in my work and in my workplace beyond the scope of my role. I was drawn to challenge and change, to new technology and new processes in the forever-evolving healthcare environment. There is plenty of opportunity to learn and grow in healthcare.”
While at PGH, she moved on to become a nurse in the Operating and Recovery Rooms after achieving specialty certification in Cardiac Care at St. Clair College. She worked towards continually improved patient care, including the launch of the new Pre-Admit Surgical Program to prepare and educate patients before their elective surgery to decrease anxiety, increasing patient satisfaction, and reducing the patient’s length of stay in hospital. She later became the Infection Control practitioner in the late 1980’s at a time when universal precautions were first introduced. “That was daunting but exciting work, requiring significant change management,” she said.
By 1989, Sue’s leadership skills were noticed by the executive team and she was appointed to lead the hospital’s Materials Management Department. It was a new challenge to be responsible for the procurement and distribution of equipment and supplies across the organization, but one Sue enjoyed, with several years of transition and change including the merger of Chatham’s two hospitals’ staff, inventory and supplies.
Throughout her career, Sue has never stopped learning, attending university programs in both Waterloo and Windsor, and graduating with an Honors Bachelor of Commerce Degree in 1997 and a Masters Degree in Business Administration in 1999. By then she was overseeing PGH materials management, facilities and support services including plant
operations, food services, housekeeping, information technology and renovation and construction projects. Then, after 10-years of corporate responsibility, she applied for a clinical leadership position and became the Director of the Medical Program at Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA). Shortly thereafter, the additional responsibilities of Chief Nursing Executive were added to her role.
“My focus then became professional practice,” she says, “to develop nurses so they could function at their maximum capacity and full scope of their role and to encourage them to go beyond their BScN to seek a Masters Degree in Nursing.”
In 2006 Sue left CKHA to accept a position as Vice-President Corporate Services at Bluewater Health in Sarnia. “It was my dream job!” she says. “Although I never saw myself as a CEO, a year later I was invited to become the Interim CEO, and in 2008 was appointed by the Board of Directors as President and CEO of Bluewater Health.”
In 2010 she earned a chartered directorship from The Directors College at McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business. Sue has served on various Boards of Directors in the healthcare sector, while somehow maintaining balance in her life as the CEO of Sarnia’s largest public sector employer, and wife, sister, mother, grandmother and volunteer.
“My passion is to create exemplary patient care experiences by engaging the entire organization – each and every employee, physician and volunteer – to work together to continually raise the bar on patient and family-centred care, and improve the environment in which we all work…in spite of, and by embracing, constant change.”
Stéphane Thiffeault, Chair of Bluewater Health’s Board of Directors said, “Sue’s leadership has helped make Bluewater Health an award-winning, high performing, and patient and family-centred organization. With her teams, Sue has overseen our transition to a new facility in Sarnia, raised patient satisfaction, balanced the budget, engaged the workforce, launched new performance metrics and Lean methodology and led development of a new strategic plan. We are pleased and proud that her 40-year career in healthcare has led her here, and on behalf of the Board, I extend congratulations on this most recent and prestigious honour!”