GARLAND — Kimberly Bronson is proud to be an example of perseverance and success.
After years of studying, the nurse and community leader recently celebrated a milestone by obtaining her doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her passion is nursing and making life better for people living with mental illness.
“I really want to make a difference for those who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse,” she said. “I want to be able to shine that light and say, ‘these are people as well.’”
Bronson was raised in Garland and is the daughter of Eddie Bronson Jr., a retired law enforcement officer, now serving as a town commissioner. Her mother, Betty Bronson, is a retired teacher. She graduated from Union High School and later attended UNC for a couple of years, before starting her career as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). She continued her education at Sampson Community College (SCC) and earned an LPN diploma and helped patients for three years. Bronson returned to SCC and earned an associate’s degree in nursing.
In 2006, she obtained a master’s in science for nursing from UNC and later began practicing as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP). In 2015, she began studying for the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. She earned the doctorate degree in December.
Her first job was at the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women in Raleigh as the lead nurse. For two years, she provided psychiatric care to mentally ill inmates and provided crisis intervention.
Next, she went to Holly Hill Hospital in Raleigh where she became the nursing supervisor. She led nurses and psychiatric technicians and also provided support to intake staff making clinical decisions about admissions.
Bronson’s journey with continued in Wake County as a staff nurse on a detox unit for patients fighting alcohol and drug addiction. Later, she continued her career at Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton; CommWell Health; Fayetteville State University as an adjunct professor; and North Carolina Recovery Support Services, Raleigh.
She’s currently the chief nurse of Mental Health at the Department of Veteran Affairs in Fayetteville. For Bronson, it’s an honor to be there. Some of her duties involve supervision of staff members working in patient care services for mental health and dialysis.
“It’s such a rewarding career to be able to give back to those men and women who have served this country, sacrificed and given up so much of their life and time,” Bronson said. “I really enjoy my job there and I would like to retire from federal service.”
However, her love is for working with people who have substance abuse and/or mental illness.
“If someone gave me unlimited money today, I would probably open a residential substance abuse treatment facility somewhere in the Sampson County or Cumberland County area,” she said. “There’s such a huge need for treatment for those people who are dually diagnosed.”
To accomplish such a feat would be the ultimate dream. As a single mother, some of the challenges to achieving her previous goals involved balancing studies, life at home, and work.
“Just finding the life-work balance is always a challenge,” she said. “Sometimes, I think I’m an overachiever.”
She went back to college to advance her career, but her children were another reason too.
“I’m trying to instill in them the importance of education and the importance of working hard and being that role model for them,” Bronson said.
Bronson believes that her accomplishments show that people from small towns can be successful. She added that it’s an example for single mothers and women.
“With hard work and perseverance you can do anything you want to do,” she said. “It’s just a testimony to never giving up and not letting anything stop you.”
When she’s not serving veterans, she volunteers with Virtuous Women in Lumberton. The organization helps people through coat drives and collections for the needy. They also assisted during Hurricane Matthew. Bronson said she would like to do a lot more things to bring awareness to mental illness.
“There’s a huge stigma in the community and the world when it comes to mental illness,” she said. “I would like to break those barriers to show that people with mental illness are just like the rest of us.”