Staff Spotlight: Bonita Shviraga, Professional Education Manager

Staff Spotlight: Bonita Shviraga, Professional Education Manager

CCAHEC Welcomes Bonita Shviraga, PhD, CNM, RN, into her new role as Professional Education Manager!

Bonita oversees programs such as the RN and LPN online refresher courses, AHEC Scholars, health professionals continuing education, and nursing student mentorship to expand their knowledge base and experience in the field of community health.

Ultimately embracing the “philosophical caring nature of nursing, rather than medical curing,” Bonita credits faculty mentorship at the University of Illinois for this pivotal guidance leading her to choose nursing as her life-long career and passion. As a first-generation college student from inner city Chicago, CCAHEC’s goal to connect students to health careers resonates strongly with her.

Professionally, Bonita is most proud of her doctoral experience and embracing it as a journey to be enjoyed in life. She speaks of the program changing her perspective and worldview, and fundamentally changing who she is as a person.

While staying busy with her husband, three children, two miniature dachshunds, and five grand-dogs, Bonita also enjoys book groups, “Church Ladies” small study group, Sunday night family dinners, theater, short day hikes, travel, international volunteer work, time spent with friends, and plays a mean game of billiards!

Full Interview

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

A. So, I am an inner-city kid from Chicago. I lived on the same street in Chicago for 33 years except for the two years I lived in dormitories at the University of Illinois Medical Center on the West Side of Chicago. After I was married, we bought a house on the same street where I grew up.

Currently I live in Louisville, CO where we moved in 1988 for my husband’s job. I have three grown children. We have 5 grand-dogs. Jimmy, his wife Michelle, and their 3 dogs live nearby in Broomfield where they own a horse boarding facility and Michelle teaches hunter jumping and dressage. Jimmy is also Director of Operations for two bars in LoDo. Chris lives nearby in Arvada, CO. He works in IT and has Buffy, a yellow lab. Lauren also lives in Arvada enjoys time with her boyfriend, friends, and her dog Mel, She works in healthcare research at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. My husband and I have had Akita dogs our whole life, but we now have two miniature dachshunds. We inherited Lauren’s dachshund Abbi when she went to the Peace Corps, and then I decided Abbi needed a friend, so we adopted Hero.

Q. How did you get into nursing and what makes you stay?

A. I considered medical and nursing school. However, as a first-generation college student with no one to mentor me on the higher education process, I found the idea of attending college then paying for medical school overwhelming. I put both nursing and medicine as majors and in those days, admissions defaulted me to nursing. In nursing school, a faculty member offered an option for an essay on nursing vs medicine in lieu of a care plan; a paper which I still have to this day. I decided on nursing since the philosophical basis is caring vs medicine which is curing.

Q. What attracted you most to the CCAHEC team?

A. Work with a great team and work life balance!

When I spoke with Gloria [Nussbaum] about the position, what attracted me was that the position encompassed many aspects: community health, prevention, serving the underserved, addressing social determinants of health, working with students from various health disciplines, and opportunity for research with students. I feel that we need to reduce health disparities. I have spent the majority of my nursing and midwifery career serving the underserved, educating women and families and participating with them in shared decision making, and empowering them to have healthy lifestyles.

Also, CCAHEC’s goal to connect students to health careers was very encouraging since I could identify with the need for mentorship. Throughout my career, I have mentored several persons in nursing.

Q. What do you most enjoy in your free time?

A. Read, participate in two book groups, “Church Ladies” small study group, Sunday night family dinners, theater, short day hikes, travel, time with family and friends. In the past I have done international volunteer work with non-governmental organizations to provide health clinics and teach Helping Babies Breathe, a neonatal resuscitation program for low resource settings. I have done work in Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, and Fiji. I also teach midwifery online.

Q. What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your new position?

A. The ability to help students navigate [the RN and LPN Refresher] course and congratulate students when they have completed the program, while also enjoying opportunities for strategic planning and program development.

Q. What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

A. Obtaining my PhD. I embraced the doctoral experience as a journey to be enjoyed in life and I did enjoy it. I was in the Caring Health and Healing Track at the University of Colorado College of Nursing. The program embraced the nurse theorist Jean Watson’s Theory of Human Caring. The tenets of the program aligned with my personal and spiritual basis as well as expanded my nursing knowledge and provided foundation in outcomes and research. Overall, the program changed my perspective and worldview.

Q. What has been your largest professional challenge in your career to date?

A. Twenty-one years ago, six of us Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM) started a midwifery practice to provide care to underserved women from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. The midwifery model of care that educates and partners with women has been shown to contribute to improved outcomes. Our outcomes for preterm birth and low birth weight were better than local, state, and national outcome levels. Our primary cesarean section rate was 3-11% compared to the national average of 25-30%. We had an excellent model of care with a team that felt like “family.”

Professionally, it was a challenge for me to make the decision to leave the practice in 2018. However, with many hours of reflection and pondering the advice of a fellow CNM who stated that there is a whole world of nursing out there to explore, I decided to take my passion for caring for women and their families, addressing health disparities, interdisciplinary education, and research into the community health realm. CCAHEC offers many opportunities connect with families and communities and make a difference in their health and in their lives.

Q. What is your proudest accomplishment in your short tenure at CCAHEC so far?

A. Moving into a full-time position has allowed me to provide additional customer service to the RN and LPN refresher students as they need it.

Q. What advice would you give to nurses who may be thinking about getting back into the workforce?

A. If you feel the desire and drive to do it – go for it! Nursing is a calling, not a job. It is caring that is at the heart of nursing.

However, nursing practice has changed in many ways. We have made great strides in healthcare quality, safety, and technology. It is an exciting time to be in healthcare with many advances happening at warp speed. Nursing has advanced in its professional recognition and nurses are integral members of interdisciplinary healthcare teams that work together for patient, family, and community health.

Health care is transforming both within the hospital and within community health. In addition to acute care, health care is also focusing on what happens outside of the hospital with social determinants of health such as: food, education, employment and income, built environments, poverty, addiction, social support, access to care, and mental health. There are many opportunities for nurses to make a difference serving individuals, families, and communities.

Q. What are your top three goals in your new position this year?

A. Revise RN and LPN Refresher programs, establish the AHEC Scholars Program and work with students from various disciplines, and reach out and network with community members and counties that CCAHEC serves.

Q. Anything else you would want our readers to know about you?

A. I value relationship and caring. I am a qualitative researcher; listening to lived experiences helps us to understand, while giving voice to people. Everyone has a story.

Do you want to make a difference in your community?

Help connect students to careers, professionals to communities, and communities to better health.

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