Betty Long, RN, MHA is the president and CEO of Guardian Nurses Healthcare Advocates, and has over 29 years in clinical nursing. She also has extensive experience in healthcare advocacy specializing in long-term care, geriatric care, and critical care.

(Photo Courtesy of Betty Long, RN, MHA)

(Photo Courtesy of Betty Long, RN, MHA)

Can you describe your duties as a healthcare administrator?

“My responsibilities now as the President/CEO of Guardian Nurses Healthcare Advocates are multi-faceted and quite diverse; marketing, legal, financial, clinical, human relations, you name it. Though I’m no longer a hospital administrator, think of me as the last 12 years as the ‘chief nurse’ of Guardian Nurses. My primary responsibility day-to-day is the sales, marketing, and account management duties that need to happen so we can not only grow our business with new clients, but provide an exemplary level of service to our current clients.  My nurse advocates, all of whom love their jobs, want to help as many patients and their families as they can so I need to make sure they have patients to help. On a more global level, I’m also responsible for the direction of our company, the services we offer, the markets we will offer them in, etc. As the CEO, the financial solvency of Guardian Nurses is, of course, my most important job because I learned long ago that without a margin, there is no mission. I have two employees who are director-level positions reporting directly to me and that is so I can be aware of the types of referrals we get each week and from whom so that I am aware of our clients’ needs.”

How has education prepared you for your career as a nurse and in healthcare administration?

“There is no doubt in my mind that my education – all of it – has played a critical role in making me into the administrator and leader that I’ve become. In college, when I was at Temple University, I was majoring in communications and journalism but in February of my senior year, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and died in May. A few months later, I was graduated with a B.S. in Communications and Journalism, and began working full-time at the Philadelphia Inquirer to begin ‘working my way up.’ But, my heart wasn’t in it and one year later, I decided to apply to nursing school. Though I had a college degree, I entered a diploma program (3 years as opposed to a B.S.N. program at 4 years) just so I could ‘get started’ as a nurse. Years later, after having been a staff nurse and supervisor, I knew that if I was going to continue to be a manager in a hospital setting, I would need an advanced degree. In 1990, while I was working full-time in the hospital, I chose to return for a master’s degree at St. Joseph’s in health administration and was graduated in 1993. I worked for many years in hospital administration but over time, saw that there were other needs that patients weren’t having addressed by their care providers. I left the hospital in 2003 and started Guardian Nurses.”

What continuing education is required for your role?

“As a registered nurse in Pennsylvania, we are required to have 30 hours of continuing education, but that’s just to maintain a professional RN license. As a business owner and entrepreneur, I am not ‘required’ by any licensing body to earn continuing education credits, but I require myself. I read nursing magazines, business magazines, online content and keep current about trends in healthcare – about results outcome research, about what’s new and different out there.  But, in my opinion, anyone, including a staff nurse, who is not reading and learning and staying on top of the healthcare issues is doing herself and her patients a huge disservice.  Hospitals have cut back on their nursing education budget so whereas before there was a resource who was providing in-services to staff to keep them ‘up-to-date’ on new equipment, new procedures, new treatment options, et al. Now, they’re only there for bare minimum training, and when you’re interacting with patients, they are bound to ask you questions about their medications, about a new treatment their doctor mentioned, about a new test that their doctor wants to order, so it’s better if you keep up.”

What advice would you give someone just starting out?

“I would encourage anyone who was looking to enter the nursing field to check in with herself or himself and make sure that nursing is what they want to do. Not from a training perspective, because that’s what nursing school is for, but from an emotional perspective. Before you commit to long hours of study, working 12-hour shifts, nights and weekends, and a lifetime of helping patients, make sure it’s the right fit. Caring for people – sick people – is hard work and it’s not for the faint of heart. I remember in my first week of nursing school, I met a classmate who, after spending our first day in the hospital on the floor as a student, came back and said to me, ‘I didn’t think it would be like this. All of these patients are sick.’  She did leave school after two weeks and I’m sure has found another career, but that struck me. I know now, as an ‘old-timer,’ nurses who are working on units in the hospital are working hard every day, and they make a difference every day to their patients. It helps if you’re committed to helping patients and get satisfaction from that as a career because nursing can be a wonderful, life-changing career. It was for me.”

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