Franciscan Health Nurse, Leader Leaves Lasting Legacy; Charts New Courses
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – It's been said that life is a journey, not a destination. As a youngster growing up in Shelbyville, Susan McRoberts was fascinated by history and once dreamed of becoming an archaeologist.
But the path she ultimately traveled has been her true calling. McRoberts became a nurse and forged a career that has spanned more than 37 years at Franciscan Health, the last two decades serving as its chief nursing officer – a position she will retire from in mid-December.
"In many ways, nursing is a lot like archaeology," she once said. “When you’re treating patients, you are looking beyond their immediate health conditions. Each person has a unique story to tell, a different background, and these things help give you a better sense of awareness about them. That's why I have a deep respect for the joyful service aspect that is so strong in the Franciscan Health and the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration culture."
After receiving her undergraduate nursing degree at Indiana University, she went to work as a behavioral health nurse at the former LaRue D. Carter Memorial Hospital in Indianapolis. She went on to earn a master's degree in nursing at IU, where she also received a certificate in informatics.
The Greenwood resident joined the former St. Francis Hospital & Health Centers Beech Grove staff in 1980. She worked her way through the ranks to direct the hospital's Behavioral Health Services and Quality Management departments. In 2001, she was appointed chief nursing officer and vice president, leading a team of 1,500 nurses at hospital campuses in Indianapolis, Mooresville and Carmel.
And her work in that role has spawned results.
Under her leadership, Franciscan Health has been the recipient of many awards and accolades for the high quality of clinical services and patient and family engagement. Franciscan Nursing Services has developed a strong professional practice model, including the institution of advanced practice nurses along with master’s and doctorate-prepared leaders.
McRoberts was also instrumental in cultivating partnerships with schools of nursing at IU, University of St. Francis, University of Indianapolis, Marian University and Ivy Tech Community College. She was a founder of the Indiana Center for Nursing, an officer with the Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety and has served as an adjunct visiting professor in the graduate and doctoral nursing programs at IU.
The nursing chief's efforts have been lauded beyond Franciscan Health. In 2014, she was named as one of the first recipients of the Top 100 Alumni Legacy Leaders Award at the IU School of Nursing, which recognizes alumni’s outstanding contributions to nursing education, clinical practice, leadership and research.
The road to nursing most likely was shaped by her mother, the late Wanda Hindman, who served many years as a nurse in Shelbyville Central Schools. That influence led McRoberts to create a lasting legacy to her mother's memory, a memorial scholarship awarded annually to a deserving Shelbyville High School senior seeking a career in the medical field.
And speaking of roads, McRoberts has spent many hours over the years, car-pooling to corporate meetings with Franciscan Health's vice president of medical affairs.
"We both have come to truly cherish this time together to 'talk shop,' commiserate about our respective trials and, most importantly, to just get to know one another better," said Christopher Doehring, MD. "These occasions have helped us get to know one another better, our personal passions, our family goings-on and what we look forward to most in life. I can honestly say that these road trips will be one of things I will miss most about working with Susan."
The ever-affable McRoberts believes it's important to give something back to their communities. She has been active in Tri Kappa, an Indiana-based philanthropic sorority, leading campaigns in Center Grove to support music and cultural events, and health, education and emergency aid for students.
Perhaps McRoberts' career and commitment is best summed up by Franciscan Health's president and chief executive officer.
"Nursing is her calling, and we are honored she chose to spend her career at Franciscan," said James Callaghan, MD. "We are grateful for her dedicated service and leadership; the caring heart and compassion she has for patients, their families and staff and all who are served by our hospitals. Certainly, Susan embodies all of those ideals of continuing Christ's ministry in our Franciscan tradition."
Retirement won't slow her down. She and her husband, David, a critical care nurse, plan to spend more time traveling and visiting with their three children and grandchildren in Arizona, Texas and in nearby Greenwood. McRoberts will continue to hone her skills in needlework, gardening and continue compiling family genealogies.
Indeed, life is more about the journey. The voyage Susan McRoberts chartered professionally and personally so many years ago has led to many ports-of-call. And more loom on the horizon for her.
By Joe Stuteville
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