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Staff Spotlight: Susan Chioffi, NP

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

As a three-decade veteran of the Duke Neuro Intensive Care Unit and Inpatient Stroke Service, Susan “Sue” Chioffi, NP, has seen her share (and then some) of some of the sickest people at Duke. For this week’s “Spotlight” interview, Chioffi talks to us about her time here at Duke, starting at the then-eight-bed Neuro ICU in 1985, to her current work treating patients who are starting to improve after a stroke. She also talks about the changes she has seen here over the past 33 years, from the addition of the Life Flight services to the introduction of electronic documentation.

What are your current responsibilities at Duke? What does your average work day look like?
I am currently one of four nurse practitioners on the Inpatient Stroke Service here at Duke. My workday is generally pretty busy. I get here at 7 am and collaborate with the resident and the intern to be sure all the patients have a provider. Then we round for generally the whole morning, break for lunch, and then spend the afternoon getting patients discharged, calling consults, working on notes, speaking with families, collaborating with the nurses throughout the day to coordinate care and be sure everybody’s questions are answered.

When did you first come to Duke? How long have you been working in the Neuroscience unit?
I have worked in Neuroscience ever since I came to Duke way back in 1985. I started as a nurse in what was then the eight-bed Neuro ICU. When Duke got a grant to start a program for NPs to help staff the ICU, I was one of the five original students in the Acute Care NP program here at Duke. Bob Blessing, who still works in the ICU, and I are the last of that group still working here at Duke. I worked as an NP after graduation in 1997 in the Neuro ICU which expanded to 16 beds. In 2012, when I was thinking about changing from working in the ICU, Neurology here at Duke re-organized its inpatient teams to General and Stroke because Duke wanted to be a Comprehensive Stroke Center. I was offered a position on the inpatient Stroke Service and have been doing that ever since. I have enjoyed the change from the ICU both in terms of patient mix and work hours.

How has your clinical work changed since you first came to Duke?
The biggest change has been the introduction of computerized documentation. When I first came to work in the ICU, the nursing charting involved huge sheets of paper; MD charting involved variably legible scribbling in a paper chart. We are on the 3rd system Duke has used in the time I have been here. The biggest advantage overall with computerized documentation has been how easy it makes assessing trends in patient data: vital signs, lab work, intake and output. I also love that if a patient has been somewhere else Epic- based, I can pull up lots of useful data without having to wait for somewhere else to fax information at their leisure.

What’s been the biggest change to the Duke Health system since that same time?
I think just the steady growth of the Duke system in both the size of Duke Hospital here in Durham and in the addition of Regional Hospital here in Durham and the hospital in Raleigh. I've been here long enough that LifeFlight got started after I started working here!

What do you enjoy most about your work? What’s the hardest part of your job?
I most enjoy that a lot of my patients do well enough that they are able to go home from the hospital and also seeing the sickest ones improve so much after ICU transfer. When I worked in the ICU, we sent people who looked terrible and had trachs and PEGs out of the ICU. Now that I work out of the ICU, I get to see them improve neurologically and sometimes progress enough to have the trachs and PEGs successfully removed!  I love working with a variety of Neurology Residents and watching as they grow into the job over their years here. I am sad to see them go when they’re done.

The hardest part is days when the census is super high!

What other passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
I love to knit. I have knitted things for various charities but mostly knit things for my family.  Most of them live in Maine so there is a definite need for hats, mittens, fingerless gloves, cowls, and sweaters!  I have a lot of knitting friends with whom I hang out.

Chioffi Duke Neurology
Chioffi (center), poses with her colleagues Sandra Napier, MSN, and Mary Guhwe, DNP, FNP.