Meet Maureen Bonatch, MSN, RN
Maureen is a shining example of the versatility possible within the nursing profession. She is a career consultant (specializing in leadership, recruitment & retention), a published fiction author, freelance healthcare writer, and current Director of Client Services in the extended home care/private duty sector. Whew! As if that is not enough to keep her busy, she also has twin teenage girls to keep track of.You're probably wondering, how did she get to this point of multiple ventures in her career? Let's find out!
Bonatch has over 20 years of nursing experience. However, she graduated highschool with initial plans to enter the world of business. She describes how working in a women's health & family planning setting influenced her decision to seek a career in nursing, "I was employed as a clinic assistant, helping with labs, etc. Working with nurses and nurse practitioners, seeing what they do, inspired me to apply to nursing school." She went on to graduate from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, while continuing to work.
Her nursing career began as a bedside nurse in psychiatric care. Maureen practiced in a state psychiatric hospital on a chronic long term treatment ward, specializing in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). She admits that while psych was always of particular interest to her throughout nursing school, it was not something she actively sought out and that it was the position that was available at the time for a new graduate. Bonatch remained in psychiatric care for about 9 years and remains on a board for residential psychiatric care. One of the activities she most enjoyed was teaching crisis management for staff. She says, "I still really enjoy so many aspects of psych and continue to use much of what I learned in several aspects of my career." She says concerns as a bedside RN related to poor morale, scheduling and staffing issues all lead her to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing administration degree (MSN) along with the potential for increased job opportunities in the field. While she had been in an administration role as a private duty director for 15 years, she states the initial decision was difficult, as she struggled to decide between teaching and administration.
Maureen learned you don't always have to choose. As a career consultant, she continues to teach by spreading her vast knowledge of nurse recruitment and retention, while remaining in an administration role. After conducting over 1500 interviews during her time in administration, she has a few helpful tips. "Little things can make a big difference in retaining staff. I know what it's like to work with a crappy boss at a crappy job. This combined with my psych background really influenced my interest in nurse recruitment. It's beneficial in terms of communication skills with staff and the key to why we have good staff retention. No one is perfect. If there is an issue with staff...address it. Bring them in and talk about it before jumping to disciplinary actions, unless severe. Give them the benefit of the doubt instead of always assuming people are doing wrong."She adds the importance of nurturing the staff you have. Bonatch gives the following example of monitoring staff satisfaction combined with transparent discussion and acknowledgement of a job well done. "We did a large study with groups of staff including many questions like, What satisfies you? We continue to do quarterly surveys, particularly because [being in the homecare realm] many of my staff are out in the field, so checking in with them is important. I've found that many managers don't really want to know what their staff is unhappy with, because it requires attention and action". Her team's research found that a popular favorite method of recognition meant the most to her staff. "We give out candy notes. It's a nice note of acknowledgement paired with a candy bar and might say something like you're worth a grand or you were a lifesaver. People really appreciate the unexpected, showing that we notice and appreciate them." She states, "I find that if you do things for staff that cost a lot of money you can do them only so often, so smaller, more frequent gestures work really well. After all, it's not just a job... it's how they are treated."
When discussing the use of interview questions to discover how to recruit staff you want and retaining those you have, Bonatch explains, "People can interview well or poor, you never really know what you're getting. Having done so many interviews over the years, I tend to use my own behavior based interview questions. Like, Name some characteristics of your best & worst boss, or Tell me about your favorite and least favorite job. [This is] to see how they will fit in & work within our agency and if it would be satisfying for them, also." She describes how staff can burn out rapidly when constantly seeing turnover and being asked to precept/train new staff. "It can be exhausting for them. It leads to an infectious cycle of low morale and decreased productivity. This is one reason why I like to retain staff by having a conversational re-interview. This give an opportunity to address issues they may not have been speaking up about and many concerns are easily addressed".
Switching gears, Maureen describes how she started writing for a living. She began as a fiction writer, inspired by her long time love of writing. "I always wanted to be an author, but never thought it was possible or achievable". Bonatch is the author of 6 published books. She found freelance writing three years ago and moved toward healthcare topics, given her extensive background, adding "I didn't realize there were so many opportunities in healthcare writing!". Describing how she really enjoyed the admission psych unit years ago, "I used to love hearing patient stories. I think that interest really plays into [my] writing."
Maureen's wide array of opportunities within the nursing profession relays an inspiring message. You don't always have to choose. It is possible to wear several hats...and wear them well. You can make your own career path, even if it may seem outside the box.
Maureen Bonatch MSN, RN is a fiction author and a freelance healthcare writer specializing in leadership, careers, and mental health and wellness. She is the owner of CharmedType.com and MaureenBonatch.comLast edit by Joe V on Jun 14
About Ashley Hay, BSN, RN
Freelance healthcare writer, editor, public speaker and owner of AHayWriting.com with over a decade of nursing experience in several areas of pediatric & adult oncology.
Joined: Aug '16; Posts: 88; Likes: 346
Freelance Healthcare Writer & Pediatric Oncology RN
Specialty: 10 year(s) of experience in Oncology