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New Award Honours Nursing Career and Life of Christiane Bonin

January 26, 2021

Christiane Bonin was a lifelong nurse who loved the camaraderie of working on the front-lines and bringing a smile to the face of her patients.

When Christiane died last November, her daughter Lilian Bonin, had the idea to create a student award in her mother’s name – in recognition of Christiane’s dedication to nursing, and to support new nurses graduating from Red River College (RRC).

“Nurses are on the frontlines, they’re the ones working directly with patients and are so important to their care,” she said. “It’s a tough job, so my idea was to give people going into it support and acknowledgement that their work is valued.”

According to Lilian, Christiane made kindness into a career – and helping people feel good was something she carried into the rest of her life. Despite the heaviness of her work, she had a positive demeanor and a laugh that everybody could recognize. She rode her bike into work every day, and got outside as often as she could.

“Being outside was a healthy way to deal with stress for her,” said Lilian. “She taught me to be kind, to have faith in the goodness of people, and – of course – that nature is healing. Whatever is going on in your life, go for a walk outside and you’ll feel better.”

It was this joie de vivre that helped her survive Stage 4 Lymphoma of the bone in 2001. Her doctors told her she would never walk again, but after spending a year in a wheelchair she went right back to her active lifestyle – the only exception being that she could no longer downhill ski.

“She grew up in the depression, with very little, and was grateful for everything,” said Lilian. “She was the first one in her family to graduate from high school and enter a career, and took courses until her mid-eighties – she was always learning. At a time when It was tough to be an independent woman, she did what she wanted.”

Christiane was at the hospital for treatment of a bacterial infection when she contracted COVID-19, from which she did not survive. And while she could not be by her mother’s side, Lilian is thankful for the hospital staff who kept her mother comfortable in her final days.

When choosing to create a scholarship, Lilian decided to support students in RRC’s bachelor of nursing program because of the hands-on training, and practical experience students receive.

“That was my mom, she was hands on,” she said. “My mother was so proud of being a nurse, and I am happy to share that with others through this award.”

The Christiane Bonin Memorial Award has been established by her family and friends in honour of Christiane Gabrielle Jacqueline Bonin, who dedicated 43 years of her professional life as an emergency nurse. Chris loved nursing and cared deeply for her patients; she was an “old school” nurse who prided herself on bedside nursing and easing peoples’ suffering.

Compassion and helping others came naturally in Chris’s day to day life and this award will concur and celebrate those qualities with future nurses graduating from RRC. This award, valued at a minimum of $1000, will be presented annually to a student graduating from the Bachelor of Nursing program. The recipient will have successfully completed Senior Practicum in an emergency setting and have expressed a particular interest in emergency nursing practice. They will also have demonstrated a high level of skill, sound academic achievement, and a caring and compassionate attitude with patients. Application forms will be available from the Nursing Repository and should be accompanied by a reference letter from a preceptor or faculty member. Applications will be accepted throughout the year, and the recipient will be selected annually in in the fall.