Looking back, Bonnie Onofre, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, can’t recall a time when she pictured herself becoming a teacher, lawyer or businesswoman — or in any other profession besides nursing. “For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a nurse,” she says with a smile. “I can’t remember a specific time or event where I wanted to do anything different.”
Yet certain experiences stand out from her youth that likely helped point Bonnie toward a nursing path. When she was still a student, she volunteered as a “candy striper” at a local hospital, and the setting became familiar to her. Her father also tragically lost a battle with lung cancer, and as she faced starting out in life, the reality of illness and loss struck close to home. Both experiences made a significant impact, enough to motivate her to take steps to pursue nursing as a career and turn her vision into reality.
Bonnie, who still serves as a nurse and currently is the chief nursing officer (CNO) at Orlando Health South Lake Hospital, has seen many changes in healthcare over her extensive career. But one thing remains consistent, she says. “Nursing is a journey of lifelong learning,” Bonnie says. “So enjoy it.”
December 2020 marked her five-year anniversary with Orlando Health. Her choosing to work at Orlando Health unfolded, in part, during the interview process. “I felt there was a good connection with those I met,” she says. “I've had the opportunity to work in a larger system with excellent people, on a journey of quality.”
With a nursing career that now spans four decades, what does Bonnie still love about her job? “For me, it’s about truly being able to make a difference every day,” she says. “That’s because of the opportunity to connect with both team members and patients.”
For those nurses who are beginning their careers and eager for guidance, her message is one of joy and encouragement. “As others have said, if you love what you do, it’s not work!”