Bonnie Paulsen leaves as director of Public Health

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

Just out of nursing school in 1992, Bonnie Paulsen started working for Morrison County Public Health. It was her first job.

Today she is saying her goodbyes to coworkers and friends as she takes a position as administrator of Bloomington Public Health which also provides services to Edina and Richfield. Friday is her last day.

Eight years after she began at Morrison County Public Health, Paulsen decided to go back to school and get her master’s degree in public health nursing with a focus on leadership and management.

Bonnie Paulsen, director of Morrison County Public Health, has taken a position with Bloomington Public Health. Her last day is Friday.
Bonnie Paulsen, director of Morrison County Public Health, has taken a position with Bloomington Public Health. Her last day is Friday.

“I left public health at that time and while attending school, worked at the St. Cloud Hospital in the family birthing center,” said Paulsen.

When Paulsen graduated, she was hired to teach at the College of St. Benedict, but kept her eye out for a public health position. She applied for a supervisory job in Morrison County in 2003 and was hired by then director Kirsten Hoese. She worked in the areas of case management, disease prevention and control and emergency preparedness.

In 2007, Paulsen became interim director of Morrison County Public Health and then in 2008, she accepted the offer of the permanent director.

“I have always been drawn to nursing,” she said. “A lot of my family members are nurses. It just runs in the family. I started as a lab technician, but realized I wanted to work with patients.”

Paulsen remembers her first exposure to the medical field. She was volunteering in Pierz in the late 1980s, working with Barb Kaluza, administering immunizations. She said it piqued her interest in nursing.

Paulsen and her husband, Jim, have lived on his family farm in the Pierz area for 30 years.

“We have been renting out the land and recently sold most of it to the renter, keeping the house and a couple of acres,” said Paulsen. “Jim works in St. Cloud so we thought we should move closer so it would be an easier commute for him. We looked for another place to live and at the same time, I thought that I should see what else is out there for another job.”

Paulsen heard about the job in Bloomington, applied and was hired.

“Now we have to move,” she said. Paulsen starts her new job Tuesday, May 27.

Looking back, Paulsen said she is most proud of her staff and the department for implementing several programs. One was the Nurse Family Partnership program with Todd County, helping high-risk first-time mothers.

Others include increasing child and teen check-up rates from 55 percent to 72 percent; obtaining grants to help decrease obesity; the mass-dispensing immunization drive-through drill and an actual mass dispensing for the H1N1 flu; and promoting positive choices for youth concerning drugs and alcohol through the Planning and Implementation grant and the Drug Free Communities grant.

For now, she and her husband will be living in an apartment in Rogers, both commuting more than a few miles.

She said her focus has always been nursing an entire population and seeing the effects of different programs on those populations.

Paulsen’s new job will be more family health focused. She will work with larger programs dealing with Women, Infant and Children (WIC), immunizations, home visits, health promotions, the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) and more.

At first, she will need to learn about her new staff and acclimate herself to a more urban lifestyle. She said she will have lots to learn for while there is less poverty in Bloomington, there is more cultural diversity.

“I am excited, but it is hard to leave a job I have been with for 20 years,” Paulsen said. “I have seen a lot of changes in public health, some good and some difficult.”

The Paulsen children and grandchildren live in the Twin Cities, so it will be good to be closer to them, she said.