Susan Eubanks, a clinical trials nurse specialist at the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center, has been selected by her peers as this year’s top nurse at ECU Physicians, the group medical practice of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.
Eubanks has accumulated 11 years of nursing experience along with the respect and admiration of her coworkers. She worked as a chemotherapy nurse specialist and thoracic oncology nurse specialist before assuming her current role two and half years ago.
Jacquelyn Unger, clinical trials manager for the cancer center and Eubanks’ supervisor, said “Susan is an excellent nurse with a broad range of experiences that benefit oncology patients and families, our community and the Brody School of Medicine.”
Unger said she has had numerous opportunities over the past 10 years to witness Eubanks interacting with patients and family members, assisting with procedures and sample acquisition, administering chemotherapy infusions and collaborating with both internal and external staff.
“Susan was always the clinic nurse who volunteered to assist with the most challenging patients and family groups, making the time to provide support and reassurance along with additional education and reinforcement,” Unger said. “She is helpful to all staff…the nurse who always has time to answer a simple question…or make time for an intern.”
A Washington native, Eubanks joined ECU almost immediately after she completed the nursing program at Beaufort Community College. She earned her bachelor’s degree from ECU in 2011 while working full time.
She’s quick to credit her award to the mentors she’s worked alongside the past 11 years. “I’m honored to receive this award, but I feel like I owe it to the veteran nurses I’ve worked with,” she said. “Nurses sometimes have the reputation of eating their young, but these nurses certainly didn’t. They taught me everything they could.”
Dr. Paul Walker, director of thoracic oncology at Brody, said: “Susan’s most impressive strengths are her ability to organize, focus and lead. As a thoracic oncology nurse specialist, she worked directly with me seeing over 20 patients a day. My working with her quickly evolved into a synergy of patient care thinking and responsiveness.”
Walker said he would frequently turn to ask Eubanks to do something, only to find she had already ordered exactly what their patient needed. “When our patients saw Susan’s eyes or heard her words, they knew they were in their oncology home,” he said.
One of Eubanks’ most recent accomplishments is writing a pilot clinical study on the use of a “distress thermometer” that measures how much distress gastroenterology oncology patients are experiencing in relation to their cancer diagnosis and treatment.
In addition to performing the daily tasks associated with overseeing multiple cancer research clinical trials - and being a wife and mother - Eubanks finds time to help educate the community about the importance of research and participation in clinical trials.
She’s also a champion fundraiser for cancer research. The past two years she chaired the Coach Rock Cancer Research Golf Classic, which benefits cancer research in eastern North Carolina. This fall she will chair a new research gala event she’s been working to develop.
Eubanks is working on her master’s degree and hopes to hold a nursing leadership role one day so she can be the nurse to others that her mentors have been to her, she said.
In the meantime, she’s happy to be right where she is, helping patients in what she calls the “special specialty” of oncology.
“My patients basically become like my family,” she said. “The best part of my job is feeling like I’ve made a difference in their lives – whether it’s helping them schedule appointments and get their prescriptions filled, or just getting them a drink or a warm blanket.”