Director of NursingVirginia“Phoenix House has been wonderful. It’s a pleasure getting to know the clients, and all of the staff are committed to getting to know the clients and really wanting them to get better.”
From the beginning of her medical career, Susan Spies has been committed to providing medical care that understands a person’s other struggles, from poverty to addiction to mental health.
When Susan worked as an Emergency Medical Technician in college at Georgetown University, she made friends with other EMTs who were also nurses. Their work prompted her to pursue a career in nursing. During college and graduate school, Susan took three trips overseas—to Chile, Dominican Republic, and Indonesia—to serve orphan and indigenous populations. Her time in developing countries taught her to think about the social context of medical care: “I don’t take anything for granted and I want to make sure that’s how I treat my clients as well, that I’m not taking any of their social issues that surround their illnesses for granted.”
After graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a Master of Nursing and a Master of Public Health, Susan started her career as a nurse practitioner at So Others Might Eat Medical Clinic, a clinic for underserved people in Washington, D.C. The clinic was connected to an addiction program that served a homeless population, and Susan found that she loved the work: “I loved the clients. It was a real challenge not only dealing with their primary care, medical issues but also the homelessness that came along with it and all the social issues.”
At the clinic, Susan implemented her training in assessment and medical testing while gaining experience in how to treat patients with co-occurring disorders, mental illness, and addiction. “I really like to make sure that I’m taking into consideration people’s lives and what’s going on in the rest of their lives when I’m treating them medically.”
After serving as a family nurse practitioner at Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services, another organization that served a low-income population, she decided she wanted to get back into an organization that helped people overcome addiction. That’s how she ended up working at Phoenix House.
At Phoenix House, Susan provides care to women, men, and adolescent populations from the Girls Recovery Lodge, Boys Recovery Lodge, and Demeter House. She and an attending physician give patients a full physical examination when they come in for admission—prescribing medicines related to other health issues, refilling prescriptions the clients are already on, and addressing any physical or medical complaints. During the rest of the person’s stay, they continue to treat acute needs or ongoing health problems, like hypertension or diabetes.
“Phoenix House has been wonderful,” said Susan. “It’s been a pleasure getting to know the clients as well and learning more about what it’s like to be in an inpatient residential facility. All of the staff are committed to really wanting to get to know the clients and really wanting them to get better.”