At age six, Bonell would dress in her mother’s maternity smock and cap and visit the elderly in the neighborhood, knocking on doors and asking how they were feeling. That’s when she knew she would lead a life in the nursing field.
Growing up in a house with six siblings and a father who worked in pharmaceuticals, Bonell started working in a hospital as a nurse’s aide when she just was 15.
“My passion was to take care of people and I was in awe of the nurses in their caps and uniforms,” Bonell said, chuckling. “There was always being an actress, but that didn’t work!”
When she graduated from high school, she went to St. Mary’s School of Nursing in Milwaukee. She also took undergraduate courses at UW-Parkside, where the head of the nursing program told her to earn her baccalaureate degree.
At that time, Bonell started questioning why she wanted to go into nursing, switched gears and enrolled at UW-Whitewater for elementary education.
“Here I thought I could teach, since nursing and teaching are within the same realm,” Bonell said. She laughed again as she realized that when she observed a first-grade classroom, she couldn’t do it.
She continued on her healthcare path by attending Mercy School of Nursing in Janesville. From there, she took courses in psychology, got married, moved to Rockford, Ill., and enrolled in Rockford College as a psych major.
Bonell gave birth to her first child. Her husband, who was a pharmaceuticals sales representative, was transferred to Oshkosh.
“Since I never finished my degree in psychology, my goal was to pursue my baccalaureate degree,” Bonell said. Although her first desire was to become a physician’s assistant, she switched gears and pushed toward becoming a nurse practitioner.
Juggling a life of kids, a husband and work, Bonell earned her bachelor’s in nursing in 1983. From there, she kept going to earn her master’s in science and nursing in 1986.
At UWO, Bonell also stayed involved within Sigma Theta Tau as president for four years. Out in the Fox Valley community, she raised funds as part of the Ladies Symphony Organization for the Oshkosh Symphony.
Bonell worked in the trenches of healthcare during her time at UWO, starting in internal medicine. When Aurora came to Oshkosh, she switched to their offices and had been with them for almost 40 years.
“As an office manager, I created a lot of protocols and made sure everyone was up to date with certifications,” Bonell said.
Eventually, she started working at a nursing home where she became one of the first nurse practitioners to do patient rounds, or check-ins, with nursing home patients.
Bonell also advocated for changes in her career field as she became a state representative for the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, helping change laws so that nurse practitioners could prescribe medicine for patients.
Although Bonell had experiences working as a nurse, UWO also prepared her to become a leader, and increased her skills in problem-solving. That is why she is giving back to the University with a scholarship in her family’s name. Her two daughters and two son-in-laws, Kelly (Bonell) Hess ’98, of Oshkosh; Kori (Bonell) Dorn ’99, of Winneconne; Timothy Hess ’98; and Bryan Dorn ’01 and ’06, respectively, were graduates from UWO in the nursing and education fields, leaving a full-circle legacy.
Bonell’s husband recently passed away, and together, they have always been dedicated to promoting wellness, which is what the scholarship represents.
Students who wish to apply for the scholarship must be in the College of Nursing and a graduate student. The students then have to prove their wellness and healthcare goals. The $500 to $1,000 scholarship will be awarded for the first time in 2016.
“I want someone who will be pushing forward for their ultimate goal, someone who will take care of and someone who will make an impact on people’s lives,” Bonell said. “Everything has become very competitive and I want to make sure that they will keep going forward.”
Bonell wants the values of her scholarship to also reflect perseverance as today’s nursing students work through discouraging times.
For more information about the scholarship, contact Shelby Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org.