Paper names Bonnie Norris, R.N., one of Wyoming’s Top Nurses

By Kristy Bleizeffer May 3, 2019

Bonnie Norris, R.N., works on our Surgical Unit. The Casper Star-Tribune selected her as one of Wyoming's Top Nurses for 2019.
“Bonnie took care of my husband this January after he had surgery. Her professional yet tender and understanding approach to this very ill man gave me, his wife, the opportunity to relax no matter how each stressful moment occurred, knowing he was in good hands.” — Pam Swisher, Casper

Nursing is a second career for Bonnie Norris, R.N., but she excels at it nonetheless. Just ask her patients … and her colleagues.

"Bonnie is one of the most kind-hearted and caring nurses I have ever had the privilege of working with,” wrote Connie Coleman, R.N., in nominating Bonnie for the Casper Star-Tribune's Wyoming's Top Nurses awards. Coleman is Bonnie's former manager and is now Wyoming Medical Center's Chief Nursing Officer.

Bonnie, who works on our Surgical Unit, has been a nurse for seven years, the last four at Wyoming Medical Center. She was nominated twice for the Casper Star-Tribune’s nurse awards, once by Coleman and once by Pam Swisher, a patient's wife. The full nominations are attached.

Norris is one of 10 nurses honored in the CST awards, and one of five from Wyoming Medical Center. In celebration of National Nurses Week, we’ll share interviews with each of WMC’s winners in the days ahead. Bonnie’s interview is below.  

So, nursing is a second career for you?

It is. When I got out of high school, I went into law enforcement. I got my criminal justice education, and then I became a stay-at-home mom. Before I was expecting my youngest child, I went to work in corrections at the women’s prison in Lusk. I then transferred to the men’s prison in Rawlins after I met my current husband. 

While working at both prisons, I escorted prisoners to the local hospitals a lot.  I loved it.  I loved the fact that they trusted me, for one, and I loved the fact that I got to ask questions when I was with the anesthesiologist or other doctors.

WHEN YOU SAY THEY TRUSTED YOU, TO WHOM ARE YOU REFERRING?

The prisoners, the wardens, my superiors, even the hospital, because I was always the one that made sure that the inmates were doing what they were supposed to be doing, not abusing the staff and that kind of thing. Many of those hospital duties were here at Wyoming Medical Center, and the staff was always very accommodating. 

We had one inmate whose organs were all switched internally. So where usually the heart is on the left, the inmate’s heart was on the right. I went in for the inmate’s heart surgery, and the anesthesiologist told me everything that was going on. He was absolutely amazing and that is kind of where my love for medicine came.

So when I realized that this was something that I wanted to do, I was still a correctional sergeant at the men’s penitentiary, and I just started taking all the prerequisites.  I never once thought that I would make it into nursing school, but I thought, “I am going to try.” 

Why didn’t you think you’d make it?

Well, I was older, it was a second career, I was thinking there is so much to this and there really was.  There was a lot more than what I thought went into nursing. 

There were late nights and the studying, and I always felt like I studied so much harder than some of the younger nursing students.  You know, even now, my niece is in nursing school and she is going to graduate in May.  I just think, “Gosh! She has so much free time!” 

How old were your kids when you went back to school?

They were older, but I still had some of them in high school and one in middle school. So, I mean, it was a lot of work!

Where was your first nursing job?

Right after nursing school, I worked at the Rawlins hospital and I went into OB. I was a labor and delivery nurse for my first three years.

What brought you to Casper?

I just didn’t feel like Rawlins offered enough.  I felt that I worked so hard for this nursing license, and I wanted to learn, and I wanted to grow in my nursing career.  I think that is the wonderful thing about nursing: There are so many things you can do with it, and everybody is always learning and growing.  So when I told my husband, he supported me.  I put in applications here, I put in applications in Cheyenne and I put in an application in Laramie. 

I interviewed at Wyoming Medical Center with Linda Johnson on the Medical Unit, Connie Coleman on the Surgical Unit and the manager of Labor and Delivery. It was kind of just fate. When Connie told me everything that comes to the Surgical Unit, I knew that’s where I wanted to go. 

So, seven years in with nursing, do you still have the excitement and that interest in medicine?

Yes, absolutely, because you are always learning.  I tell Viki, Brock Anderson’s physician assistant, that I always learn something from her. Always.

Did you know that you had been nominated for the Casper Star-Tribune Outstanding Nurse award?

I did. A patient and his wife told me that they had nominated me.

They are amazing people.  They really are.  He was a patient of Jim Anderson, and Jim Anderson just did amazing things for them.  I mean, he saved this person’s life.  I like to work a lot, so I had been working, I don’t know, five or six days in a row, and I had asked for this patient every time. All the nurses here like to have the continuity of taking care of the same patient and seeing them get better.  I loved being able to go in and talk with his wife and tell her, “Don’t worry, these doctors are going to take excellent care of him.  They are going to work to find out what is going on and they are going to make it better.”  She was just so appreciative of the information and the support, and I was glad that I was able to do that. On my day off, I came up here just to make sure that they were okay because there was a chance that he would be discharged. Even after he was discharged, his wife always updates me and tells me that he’s doing great. I love knowing that he is getting better with each passing day.

How did they tell you that they’d nominated you?

She actually called me while I was work. I was really busy, so I asked for her phone number. When I had a minute, I called her back.  She said, “Bonnie, I just would love to keep up with you.”  So then we met up so she could update me on how everything was going. And she said, “I just want you to know that we appreciated the care that you gave and your compassion, and we wanted you to know that we nominated you for this.” 

How did that make you feel?

There are so many good nurses.  I don’t feel like the best nurse, but it made me feel humble and grateful that somebody felt that way.

I work with an amazing team – the whole team through the hospital. We have to work as a team because otherwise it does not work.  I love that Wyoming Medical Center takes everybody from around the state. 

Do your patients recognize you when they see you outside of the hospital?  

They do, sometimes.

I love it.  I feel bad that I don’t always remember their name, but I recognize their face and I can remember what surgeon was theirs.

What is the thing that makes you excited to come to work?

My co-workers, and of course patients. I come in early every day so I can look up my patients, learn what is going on with them and prepare for my shift. If I am the charge nurse, then I figure out how many patients I have on the floor, who is here for the daytime, who is here for the nighttime, how many surgeries are coming in, how many beds do I have open for direct admits and so on.  

We also have so many excellent surgeons here.  I feel very blessed because the diversity in cases that we have here, compared to the smaller outlying hospitals, is amazing.  There are so many opportunities here to grow as a nurse.

How do you feel, knowing that this a community award?  

Well, I feel honored.  I did not expect it.  Even my patients told me that they had nominated me, I just thought, “That is not going to happen.” I am humbled because there are many, many good nurses here.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL OUR NURSE NOMINEES

In all, 31 nurses from Wyoming Medical Center were nominated by their peers and/or patients for the Casper Star-Tribune’s Wyoming’s Top Nurses 2019. Congratulations to all of them!

Brenda Jennings, R.N., Surgical Staging Area; Chantel Thomas, R.N., East Campus Surgical Unit manager; Bonnie Norris, R.N., Surgical Unit; Kristl James, R.N., Medical Unit; Stephanie Lovelett, R.N., Surgical Unit; Katelyn Goff, R.N.; Emergency Department; Sarah Peak, R.N., Advantage Orthopedics and Neurosurgery; Jennifer Gallagher, R.N., Mother & Baby; Connie Coleman, R.N., Chief Nursing Officer; Amy Vincent, R.N., Neuro Unit; Nicole Porter, R.N., Neuro Unit; Melissa King, R.N., Intensive Care Unit; Kerry Moyd, R.N., Emergency Department; Lorri Harford, R.N., Intensive Care Unit; Corrine Arross, R.N., Emergency Department manager; Monica Rogers, R.N., Surgical Staging Area/Intensive Care Unit; Ginger Sims, R.N., Progressive Care Unit; Amber Kidd, R.N., Mother & Baby; Christine Rogers, R.N., Medical Unit; Abby Redden, R.N., Mother & Baby; Becky Fleming, R.N., Trauma Data Analyst; Lathyn Garcia, R.N., Mother & Baby; Sukhy Kaur, R.N., Surgical Unit; Chyanna Esau, R.N., Surgical Unit; Jenea Goddard, R.N., Intensive Care Unit manager; Jennifer Kuras, R.N., Mother & Baby; Sausha Hernandez, R.N., Case Management; Holly Sasser, R.N., Progressive Care Unit; Colin Gransbery, R.N., Cardiac Cath Lab; Tamara Thomson, R.N., Neuro Unit manager; and Kristin Olsen, R.N.; Intensive Care Unit