10/17/07 — New director of nursing ready to begin next mission at Cherry

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New director of nursing ready to begin next mission at Cherry

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 17, 2007 2:05 PM

Two years ago, at age 46, Bonnie Gray was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. Today, she is ready to take over duties as Cherry Hospital's new director of nursing.

But getting to this point wasn't easy.

As a nurse at Wayne Memorial Hospital, Mrs. Gray knew the rare and aggressive form of cancer was cause for alarm.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm going to die,'" she said.

She continues to wage war against the disease, but says the prognosis is good.

"I'm still in treatment, still on clinical trials but I'm doing well, I'm feeling well," she said.

Being a survivor, Mrs. Gray's message today is one of hope.

"October is breast cancer awareness month. I can't let this opportunity go by without saying that women can live with cancer and live very productive, meaningful lives and have new opportunities," she said.

She applied that to herself this week, taking over as director of nursing at Cherry Hospital. It is, she says, "an exciting new chapter" to her life.

"It just makes this opportunity even more special. This is an opportunity to continue to work and to be more productive and be a part of Cherry Hospital," she said.

Calling it a "giant leap of faith," she said she has always enjoyed the work of behavioral health, even with all the reforms currently taking place in mental health.

"It's an exciting time, too, because we can be creative to meet the challenges of the new day," she said.

Leaving behind the familiar, and rewarding, work she enjoyed at Wayne Memorial was tough, she noted.

"Wayne Memorial Hospital has been my work family for 26-plus years," she said. "I love Wayne Memorial. It has been good to me. They have always given me opportunities to grow and develop.

"They supported me during this breast cancer journey, but when this opportunity came along, they patted me on the back and said, 'Good for you, this is a good thing for you, and we're happy for you.'"

Since both hospitals at times share some of the same patient population, Ms. Gray said she expects to cross paths again with her former co-workers.

Prior to being hired at Cherry, Ms. Gray was administrative director for clinical resource management and held several other education and patient care roles since first being hired as a staff nurse at Wayne Memorial in 1981. Earlier this year, she was named one of the "Great 100 Nurses" for the state.

She earned her bachelor's degree from Atlantic Christian College in 1981 and in 1994, received her master's degree in nursing.

"She comes to us with a very strong background in a variety of areas that will be really advantageous for us at Cherry Hospital," said Dr. Jack St. Clair, director at Cherry. He said that her experience in acute care as well as behavioral health will be beneficial in her new role.

"She has a great reputation. She is just what we need here," he said.

Ms. Gray will be responsible for the entire nursing division, which totals about 800 nursing staff. Of those, 190 are licensed nurses and more than 360 are health care technicians.

After her first day on the job Monday, she said she came away with a favorable first impression.

"I'm impressed with the professionalism of the Cherry staff and their commitment to providing excellent patient care," she said. "Cherry Hospital has a rich history in our community and I share their pride and their passion for doing the right thing and doing it well.

"I consider it a privilege to be a part of this fine team."