When Susan Bonini was growing up in Connecticut, she used to bring injured animals home to treat them.
“I’ve always had this altruistic drive,” she said, “and that, coupled with an interest in the sciences and always wanting to know how things worked, I knew at an early age that I wanted to go into nursing or medicine.”
Bonini joined the CU College of Nursing as a faculty member in 2011, putting years of nursing experience to work in the Integrated Nursing Pathways program, and as an instructor specializing in medical-surgical nursing and chronic and acute care in cardiology.
Bonini started nursing training in high school and received an associate’s degree in 1978. She worked with telemetry (remote cardiac monitoring) as a staff nurse in Philadelphia. Three years later, she accepted a position in the surgical step-down unit at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, and after about a year, transitioned to the coronary critical care unit.
Working with cardiac patients, she said, transformed her. “I went into nursing because it has the characteristics and values I find important,” she said. “There’s advocacy, education, compassion and a combination of science and patient care.” Bonini also volunteered with the American Heart Association on a cardiac rehabilitation Phase 3 Program. She coached heart-attack survivors through exercise programs and taught them healthy habits. She even ran with cardiac patients in local races. “Nursing is about helping others advocate for themselves, and teaching them what it is to live a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “I felt like nursing was the most important thing I could do.”
Early on in her clinical practice, she had an opportunity to meet leaders in nursing, like Lillian Brunner, a pioneer in medical-surgical nursing. “It was transforming,” Bonini said, “It had a tremendous influence on my decision to get an advanced education in nursing.” Bonini went on to earn a BSN in 1985, and a master’s in 1989, a significant achievement considering that only about 20% of associate degree prepared nurses earn a bachelor’s degree.
Bonini moved to Colorado in 1990. In 1992, she was hired by the University of Colorado Hospital and held a number of positions in patient care and nursing leadership and administration before joining the College of Nursing in 2011. In addition to teaching medical-surgical nursing and other courses, Bonini works to bring diversity to nursing through the Integrated Nursing Pathway Program.The program is designed to bring greater diversity into the CU nursing student body and to streamline the pathway from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree in nursing. It offers simultaneous application and admission, dual academic advising and an early introduction and continued mentoring to prepare for the role of professional nursing.
Bonini encourages students to see the opportunity to have a positive impact that a nursing education and career present. Bonini herself isn’t finished with her education; the inspiration she feels from colleagues in the College of Nursing fuels her determination to pursue a PhD in the future. “Anyone who joins the College of Nursing has the unique opportunity to change the face of nursing education,” she said, “and to prepare students for the changing and challenging environment in not only the hospital setting, but in any setting where patients are cared for.”