Special Honors: Pediatric Nurse goes to Suzanne Bona Photo by Jay Paul
During her first few years in medicine, Suzanne Bona learned an important lesson: "I liked kids a lot better than adults," she says with a laugh. Now a clinical nurse at the Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Bona spends her days advocating for pediatric patients.
"She's the person you go to whenever you are trying to figure out the best care for a patient as far as navigating them through insurance companies and getting them care outside the office," says Melinda Penn, an assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology at VCU.
Bona pushes to get medications authorized for children with conditions such as precocious puberty, which requires drug treatment to delay its onset. "The biggest issue we have is with growth-hormone medications," says the 2005 graduate of the Radford University School of Nursing. "It's very expensive medicine, and insurance companies really just don't want to cover it for a lot of patients."
Of all her duties, Bona is most passionate about working with children who have diabetes, helping them and their families to implement a successful treatment plan. "It's not [a matter of] ‘If you do this, you're going to get this response,' " says the certified diabetes educator. "It's a lot of ‘Let's try this, and if that doesn't work, then we'll try something else.' " To make that "something else" a bit more precise, Bona wrote a grant proposal last year through the Children's Miracle Network that funded the purchase of three new continuous glucose sensors. Inserted below the skin, these sensors record a patient's blood sugar every five minutes. Combined with a log of activities and diet during the period being studied, the resulting information allows doctors and nurses to adjust a child's insulin regimen to produce better results.
Bona's next grant request seeks funding through VCU's MCVH Auxiliary for Camp Wanna Cure, a weeklong day camp for children with diabetes. She's been involved with the long-running effort since 2010, but Bona took on the task of organizing this summer's session after the departure of the camp's director in the fall. Along with a regular slate of activities such as swimming, every day at camp features education related to diabetes, from nutritional information to advice on selecting an infusion site for insulin pumps. "We have counselors who are diabetic, too, so it's a very good learning environment, and at the same time they can be around other kids who are doing the same thing they are, and it doesn't seem like they're so different."