Bonni Martin, BS, RN, is not your typical nurse. Her path to a career in nursing did not follow a straight line. Rather, it took a series of twists and turns. “I am not typical in that I did not know that I wanted to be a nurse since childhood,” she says.
She may not be typical, but she is exceptional. Bonni has been named The Validator in Mosby’s search for the Superheroes of Nursing. The Validator is the nurse who leads the way to quality, excellence, and accreditation. The Validator is a perfect description of Bonni. She is the coordinator for Accreditation and Regulatory Affairs at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vermont. She has been a nurse for more than 30 years.
Bonni grew up in a blue collar family. She studied secretarial skills because she didn’t think that college was an option for her. After she graduated from high school, she worked as an executive secretary for two years, but she was bored. She decided to go to a community college and narrowed her choices down to either becoming an electrician or an LPN. She chose the LPN program.
The Right Path
Shortly after she began her nursing career as an LPN, Bonni knew she had chosen the right career path. After working on a medical-surgical floor for a few years and later in a physician’s office, she earned her RN and then worked in home care and later in hospice. She felt that hospice was her best nursing experience so, when she decided to earn a bachelor’s degree, she chose a program that allowed her to design a degree in hospice and palliative care.
After a few more twists and turns, Bonni eventually moved to Vermont and joined Fletcher Allen where she was drawn to working in regulatory affairs because she is passionate about adherence to regulations. “We are given regulations for the safety and quality of patient care,” she says. Bonni is one of a three-member department whose job is ensure that Fletcher Allen is meeting the standards set by The Joint Commission, CMS, and some 30 other agencies. According to Bonni, It’s never a job that is done alone. She and her colleagues work in teams and bring in experts from every area as needed.
Bonni’s job is to watch for changes or additions in the regulatory language. She disseminates this information to other care providers as needed. As part of her job, she stages mock surveys on the nursing floors, inspecting documents and nursing practice. If there is room for improvement, she works with the nurse managers and nursing administration to put plans in place to meet standards. It’s all done with a focus on patient safety. “We really all have the same goal,” Bonni says, “and that’s patient safety and quality of care.”
Members of the Nursing Leadership Team submitted Bonni’s nomination. The fact that nursing leadership had nominated her meant a lot to Bonni because she doesn’t work in the Nursing Department. She is officially part of the James M. Jeffords Institute for Quality. Bonni was especially humbled to be recognized by a group of individuals that she highly respects.
In the nomination, nursing leadership highlighted Bonni’s role as a unifier. Bonni was recognized for integrating the hospital’s mock survey process and environment of care rounds into a unified process. She also facilitated the creation of a unified unit-level dashboard that highlights nursing-sensitive, regulatory, patient safety, infection prevention, financial, human resource, and patient-centeredness indicators. The nomination recognized Bonni as someone who “has become our unifier and an essential member of our nursing leadership team.” The nomination also pointed out Bonni’s unique ability to help the staff understand the complexity of regulatory requirements and support their efforts to meet standards.
In one of life’s serendipitous moments when Bonni attended the conference where she accepted The Validator award, she met a woman who mentioned the George Washington University master’s program in health care quality. It was the first time Bonni had heard of a health care quality program. She eventually enrolled and is currently working toward her master’s degree. “All of the pieces just fell into place,” she says.
Showing her natural humility, Bonni doesn’t see herself as a hero. “This is just what I do,” she says. “What doesn’t make you a hero is saying that’s not my job.”