Introducing Sue Downs, R.N., M.B.A., M.S.N.

The Clinical Translational Research Center and the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit have a new nurse manager. Sue Downs leads the team that supports human research conducted by OHSU scientists and external clients. The role includes making sure the center has the capacity and expertise to follow research protocols for studies ranging from first human use of drugs to sleep studies. New training and mentorship programs are two of the first initiatives to maintain a pipeline of nurses with a solid foundation in research.

What sparked your interest in nursing and research?
I was committed to not becoming a nurse. My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother were all nurses and I swore I wouldn’t follow in their footsteps. But while I was in college, I took a part-time job in the children’s ward at a hospital and I just loved it. At the end of my time there, some of the nurses in the ward pulled me aside and told me I had a special way with people and advocating for patients. They were persuasive. So I went home and submitted my application to nursing school. I went to Weber State University for my RN degree, and then to Grand Canyon University for my MBA and MSN, with an emphasis in nursing leadership in health care systems. I’m from the Southwest—Arizona and Utah—but very much consider Portland my home. I’ve lived here most of my adult life.

Tell us about your research and what drew you to it?
I always want to see the data and outcomes. In every job I’ve had, I’ve wanted to know why things are done the way they are. Are we making the best decisions? In nursing, this information is so meaningful when it can improve patient care.

I’m working now on my Ph.D., with an emphasis in cognition. One of my interests is the relationship of perception to science. The other is retention in nursing. Lots of research has been conducted on why 30 percent of nurses leave the profession in the first six years, but little is known about why nurses stay.

What brought you to OHSU?
I actually held this position a number of years ago—and then went on to work as an educator and a quality control manager in hospice settings. But I love this research setting. Patients have different diagnoses and ages, come from different populations, and have different levels of wellness. Also, research is incredibly collaborative—we all come together for the patients.