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Interview with Susan Belton, MSN, MBA, RN, CNL

Mass General Brigham Healthcare at Home Director of Education and Training Susan Belton, MSN, MBA, RN, CNL, discusses her newly unified team, her personal learning journey, and her passion for home-based care.

What path led you to your role as Director of Education and Training for Mass General Brigham Healthcare at Home?

I’ve always enjoyed breaking down difficult concepts to make them as manageable as they can be. Growing up, people would tell me that I should be a teacher. So, I naturally gravitated to education. I was a swimming instructor, camp counselor and then a softball coach.

Both of my parents worked in healthcare -- my father on the finance side for Massachusetts General Hospital, and my mom was a registered nurse for 30 years – and two of my sisters are nurses. I was really interested in healthcare but wasn't sure I could do the technical skills, like give somebody an injection. I started working at MGH as a unit secretary while I figured out if I should go to school for education or for nursing. I decided to study education and completed my degree in elementary education at Bridgewater State. I got married, started a family and over the years I worked for an MGH orthopedic surgeon while also teaching technology in the classroom for Abington Public Schools. It was a lot of fun because the kids enjoyed being in the computer lab and then integrating what they were learning back in the classroom.

What finally pushed you to make the transition to nursing?

My family continued to tell me that I should consider going back to school for nursing and I began to think of it differently for the first time. I thought to myself, I think I'm ready now. I completed an accelerated nursing program at Curry College, its first class, actually. When I started the program, it seemed so daunting. I tried to focus on what needed to be done step by step and I relied on the support of my family as I had young children at the time. If you wait for the perfect time, there’s never going to be the perfect time.

When I graduated, it was a great time to enter nursing as there was such a demand. My first clinical nursing position was at New England Baptist as a staff nurse in orthopedics, which I loved. I eventually wanted to expand my clinical skills and knowledge and went to work at MGH in complex urology and orthopedic cases. I did that for 13 years, and in the meantime went back to school to get my MSN and graduated from Curry College’s first MSN class as soon as soon as they offered it.

And we now know you came full circle and began to think about being an educator in the clinical environment – how did that happen?

I accepted a position as a clinical educator at New England Baptist and also taught clinicals for Curry College at multiple hospitals. I went on to teach in the classroom at Curry College for the RN to BSN program, and then for Mass College of Pharmacy and the MGH Institute of Health Professionals.

I eventually took a role as a director at Carney Hospital on a medical floor, where I gained a lot of medical knowledge before moving to Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital as a clinical educator for two medical units.

When did your home-based care journey start?

I then joined the Home Hospital program leading education and training, which was just really exciting. Home Hospital is helping patients get the care they need while reducing the number of patients in hallway beds, the Emergency Department or inpatient units. It’s a crisis in this country how patients are waiting for long periods and not getting the care they need.

In your role now, what do you see as the greatest opportunity for the education and training team?

A big priority for us in Home Hospital is safe practice. Some of the things we’ve been able to do with nursing leadership are shifting practice decisions to be made by nurses and paramedics in our environment, and developing practice and policy councils. Home Hospital is unique because we are not brick and mortar; it’s taking care of acute patients in their home. So, developing policies for how we operate and what we do, as well as education and training to support this, is helping build a strong structure for Home Hospital.

We also developed from scratch an orientation program specifically for Home Hospital clinical nurses and paramedics. We made sure we had frontline staff involved in building this. We worked with our colleagues at STRATUS simulation, High Fidelity SIM lab at Brigham and Women's Hospital. They spend the day together, get to know each other and have hands on training for things like IV starts, wound care, catheter placement, etc.

Are there new things to focus on now that your team includes Education and Training for all of Healthcare at Home?

First, it’s so exciting to welcome new clinicians with the depth and breadth of experience as the team who have joined us from Home Care. Now that our team oversees education and training for the broader Healthcare at Home team, we will be looking for similar opportunities to do some of the same types of things we did in Home Hospital, but at a broader scale. I want to ensure our teams are collaborating, coming together to make sense of what we do and discovering opportunities where we can work better. I always feel that we're learning and growing together as a team.

What’s on the horizon with this new team?

A few things. Recognizing our great efforts individually and as a team is so important. We recently built out the DAISY program for Healthcare at Home – an international program that recognizes nurses for excellent care. The program is important to demonstrate to our Healthcare at Home employees the organization's commitment to nursing excellence. Simply being nominated is a high honor for the DAISY program.

We are currently planning programs based on the results of a needs assessment survey that the education team sent out to paramedics and nursing. We will be utilizing STRATUS for drop-in skills sessions. Brandon Boutin, BSN, RN has taken the lead on BLS training for all staff and is becoming IV certified to be able to provide expert IV training. Eryn McCormack, BSN, RN is participating specialized wound care training to become wound care certified. She will be able to advise on wound care treatments.  We are also collaborating with human resources and nursing leadership to create a comprehensive newly licensed nurse residency program.

We have a tremendous opportunity as the Home Hospital and Home Care education teams are learning and growing from sharing experiential knowledge and expertise. Jackie Doyle is the manager of the Home Care Training and Development Team and has been a great resource to me. We are looking forward to supporting clinicians and organizational goals as a combined team.

And for you, personally? You don’t seem like someone who will just stop looking for ways to learn and grow.

My work as part of Healthcare at Home is very fulfilling. The Educations and Training team is amazing and so committed to the work that they do, to our patients, to the clinical nurses and paramedics. I’m very excited about the near-term and longer-term horizon here.

My husband and I are celebrating our 32nd wedding anniversary and we have three sons who are adults now. I just finished my MBA degree a couple of months ago from Fitchburg State. I gained a lot of operational knowledge from the program.

Now that my studies are wrapped up, I have great family and friends that I love spending time with so I will probably spend some time catching up with them.


Discover career opportunities at Mass General Brigham Healthcare at Home and learn about why our home-based care providers enjoy working in one of the fastest growing fields in the U.S.

female and male medical providers carrying supplies outdoors