Radiation oncology society recognizes nurse Elizabeth Brunton for excellence

By Amy Lynne Bowes


The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) selected Scripps Clinic nurse Elizabeth A. Brunton, R.N., M.S.N., O.C.N. to receive its 2010 Nurse Excellence Award.

“I’m surprised and a bit chagrined,” Brunton said of the honor. “I feel that other people are more worthy, but I’ll accept the award on behalf of all nurses.”

In announcing the award, ASTRO president Anthony Zietman, M.D. explained that “nursing is an integral part of the radiation oncology treatment team, ensuring that patients receive the best, safest and most compassionate care as they cope with cancer. Elizabeth Brunton is a wonderful example of radiation oncology nursing.”

According to ASTRO, the award is presented annually to a registered nurse who goes above and beyond the normal standards of nursing practice. Brunton received the award and a $1,000 grant, during the nurse’s welcome and orientation luncheon held Oct. 31 as a part of ASTRO’s 52


annual meeting in San Diego.

Prabhakar Tripuraneni, M.D. and Brunton’s boss Bruce Buttermore nominated her for the award. Dr. Tripuraneni has worked alongside Brunton for more than 20 years.

“She’s one of a kind and very special, but modest. She’s a very good teacher — not only to patients, but other nurses, too,” said Dr. Tripuraneni. “Patients from 20 years ago who come back for check-ups will always ask for her by name.”

Brunton has a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from UCLA and a Master of Science in nursing from Case Western University in Cleveland.

She is the lead nurse in the radiation oncology department at Scripps Clinic and Scripps Green Hospital where she has worked since 1986. In her role, Brunton is responsible for assessing the daily physical, nutritional, and emotional needs of radiation therapy patients to assure optimal patient care.

Tripuraneni said he nominated Brunton because of her dedication to patients — not only their medical care, but also their mental well-being. Brunton worked across departments at Scripps to develop patient education materials on radiation therapy to help patients and their families better understand the life-saving treatment.

In 2009, she also created a patient education orientation program for new patients. Brunton described the program as an educational process that takes place for new patients and families the third Tuesday of every month at Scripps in La Jolla.

“It gives the patients a chance to ask questions about every step of the process,” she said. Participants are asked to evaluate the course afterward and the results are reported as part of Scripps’ quality improvement process.

Brunton also initiated a procedure in the radiation oncology department to ensure that all patients now receive information regarding their stage, pertinent test results, and specific information regarding their disease.

But Brunton was not always an oncology nurse. Her career in the 1980s was focused on education, however, she found her niche in oncology at St. Joseph’s in Burbank, Calif.

“Once I found radiation therapy, I found that’s what I really enjoyed and have been with it ever since,” she said.

Dr. Tripuraneni said he wishes there were more nurses like Brunton around the country. Humbly, Brunton attributed her success to Scripps’ backing of its nursing staff.

“Scripps has always been supportive of nurses attending conferences and educational programs,” she said.