The Long way to a nursing career
Tracy Long is a nurse at Warren General Hospital. But didn’t have a typical path to get there.
“I decided to go to nursing school when I was almost 30 years old,” she said. “I was a single mom just trying to make ends meet. Initially, I wanted to become a nurse because of the financial stability of a nursing career, but as I progressed through nursing school, a passion for nursing and caring for others grew more than I could have ever imagined! Best decision ever!
“It took me a long time to build up the courage to break out of my comfort zone and apply for nursing school,” said Long. “I had been working as a florist for several years and really enjoyed it, but was struggling financially.”
She knew it wouldn’t be easy.
“People always say that nursing school is hard and they’re right! It was probably the hardest thing I have ever done,” she said. “I was going to school full-time, working, and raising my son. Looking back now, I don’t know how I did it. But the day I graduated was SO rewarding, I’ve never been more proud of myself!
“I knew I wanted to work at WGH so I took the first position offered to me, the Psych Unit,” said Long. “I enjoyed all of the different types of nursing while in nursing school but didn’t really have plans to work in psych. I had intentions of cross training and getting more medical experience, etc., but here I am and psych has become my preference and where I am most comfortable working. People always say it takes a special person to work in mental health and I’ve come to realize that maybe that’s me, I really do enjoy it. On a typical day, we start the day by passing morning medications. Then the doctor comes in and we do rounds as a team and meet with each patient and discuss how things are going, what we need to work on, maybe changing medications, and a plan for discharge. After rounding, I do my charting. We do any discharges and admissions as they present, and attend to any nursing care that’s needed. The behavioral health techs provide group therapy and also spend 1 to 1 time with patients if needed. Nurses are also available to chat with patients, too. We make sure patients get any other medications that are scheduled throughout the day or any ‘as needed’ medications. No two days are the same and we just handle things as they arise; it’s really hard to predict what each day will look like.
“I feel like becoming a nurse has changed me in many positive ways,” said Long. “I have met so many new people and made lots of new friends. I feel that I have gained a new confidence in myself. I know that I am capable of helping others, making a difference, and hopefully a better role model for my son.
“I really enjoy working in mental health. It’s a different kind of nursing. We watch people heal in a different way. We build relationships with our patients and hopefully help them get through their hard times. I feel that everything has purpose and there have been patients that have had an effect on me. They have changed my perspective, made me grateful for the life that I have, taught me to be patient and kind, and that everyone needs to feel loved.
“Most days can be difficult, especially working in mental health. There are patients that make it very challenging to care for them, which are usually the ones that need it the most. There are patients that we spend weeks trying to help them get their life in line and then find out that they went right back to the previous lifestyle as soon as they are discharged. These are the days that I question why I keep doing this to myself and maybe I should move on to a different field to save my own mental health. We try to equip our patients with the tools they need to be successful in the real world, but we don’t always get the opportunity to see the positive progress. We find out when our previous patients are failing though, we see their name in the newspaper for a crime, or for drug or alcohol charges, or they are back in the ER for a mental health evaluation. I like to hope that the ones that we don’t hear about in the news are doing well, that because of us they have their mental health under control, and just having the hope that we have helped at least one person each day.”
The coronavirus has made it extra challenging.
“I just do my best to cooperate and comply with all of the rules and protocols,” said Long. “This is difficult for most everyone and complaining isn’t going to make it any better. During the pandemic, I had the opportunity to orient on the medical floor. I wanted to be available to help if things were to get really busy. I’m not sure if I would have ever branched out of my unit if it wasn’t for this pandemic. I know, for me, this quarantine has really been nice. Life has slowed down, it has made me grateful for things I didn’t even realize. It has given me the chance to step back and look at my life and focus on what’s really important to me. I hope that if things ever go back to ‘normal,’ I won’t forget the things I have gained and learned during this time.
“I always say that respect is mutual,” said Long. “I like to think that if I treat someone with respect and care, they will return that gesture. It’s not always easy, but I always try. But we also can’t be too soft or naive because we could be easily taken advantage of. It can be a hard balance to find.”
Long has found a balance in her life.
“I’m from Corry and I enjoy working in Warren because it has given me the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends! I think that Warren is a nice place and I enjoy working in this community, I consider Warren my second home.
“I think that my biggest inspiration has been my son,” said Long. “If it wasn’t for him, I might not have ever become a nurse. I set out to obtain financial stability and in the process have grown into a better person and a better role model. My son has always cheered me on and is so proud of me, that is the best inspiration I could ever ask for.”