By Lilia Ortiz
It’s easy to see why nursing instructor Dr. Kimberly Long is such an inspiration to many. With an extensive list of accomplishments that includes more than 30 years of nursing experience, 17 years as an active member of the Association of California Nurse Leaders (ACNL) and 10 years of running her own nonprofit organization, Journey to a Dream, it’s not surprising that Dr. Long was named CEO of ACNL in February 2021.
Dr. Long began her career as a certified nursing assistant in 1985 and graduated from Bakersfield Junior College in 1987.
After being offered the opportunity to lead an outpatient sickle cell treatment center, she decided to continue pursuing higher education and earned a master's degree as a nurse practitioner. Not stopping there, she earned her Doctor of Health Administration from University of Phoenix (UOPX) in 2008.
Dr. Long credits her mother for helping her find her vocation. After taking a test to pinpoint her ideal career path, she learned she was people-oriented and decided to go into healthcare. But when she went into administration later in life, she realized she had to find another way to reach out to people.
That's when she decided to teach at University of Phoenix and help others interested in nursing reach their career goals.
Of teaching, Dr. Long says, “Seeing the light go on in a student's eyes and being able to clarify something for them to the point where they develop their own learning platform and tap into their own internal passion where they get excited about something, I find that to be very rewarding for me because that's the kind of thing that you need to motivate yourself, and when I can participate in helping a student find that, it makes it all worth it.”
Dr. Long has taught on and off at UOPX since 2003 and adds that, as a faculty member, she strives to create an environment where learning can occur, one that is comfortable and allows students to feel free to be creative and innovate. She also wants the classroom to be a place where they can be free to fail.
Her method for successful teaching is twofold. First, she lets her students know she's there to facilitate their learning; and second, she conveys the material in a way that is both easy to understand and engaging.
She adds, “Some topics are a challenge to make interesting, but I challenge myself to do that so that when [my students graduate], they will have retained the information that they've been given and not just regurgitated it back to me for a grade.”
Dr. Long also says, “What I do with my students is I let them know that my goal is to help them to optimize their learning and to represent themselves in the most positive light, and so in doing that, there may be some messages I have to convey to them that may not be easy to swallow, but it's conveyed in a manner that helps them with their growth and doesn't break their spirit. My feedback is constructive, and it's silent. You praise publicly, and you correct privately.”
Dr. Long's teaching isn't confined to the university. As a healthcare leader, she has also been a mentor and teacher to others in her field.
Dr. Long has held multiple executive positions in California, including serving as Director of Cardiovascular Operations at Saint Agnes Medical Center, Vice President of Clinical Service at Bakersfield Heart Hospital, Chief Operating Officer at Kaiser Vallejo Medical Center and System Chief Nursing Executive at Alameda Health System.
During her time at Alameda Health System, she met Fefe Tequame, a clinic manager. Dr. Long saw potential in her and asked whether she aspired to be in a leadership position.
After an enthusiastic "yes," Dr. Long helped Tequame gain more experience by increasing her responsibilities across various departments. Dr. Long "flew under" Tequame as "she strengthened her wings.”
Tequame, who is currently the director of nursing at Alameda Health System, says, "Dr. Long has always been a mentor for me and a guide for me to expand my knowledge." Tequame credits much of her success at Alameda Health System to Dr. Long and believes she paved the way for her to become an effective leader.
Tequame says Dr. Long told her, "I want you to be successful. And I want you to grow. You're going to get to the director level," which has, in fact, come true.
Dr. Long’s mentorship has created a chain reaction, and Tequame is now a mentor for many nurse leaders, whom she guides and supports on a daily basis.
When it comes to mentoring, Dr. Long says, "As I meet people, if there's something I can do to help them figure out how to get on the path that they want to get on, then I feel honored to be able to do that."
Dr. Long’s reasoning for helping others stems from the support she received when she felt discouraged. "There were many people in my life who I would look at and say, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ and they would say ‘Yes, you can.’ I wanted to be that for people."
There was no shortage of obstacles early on in Dr. Long’s life. She was a teen mom who divorced by the time she was 19 and raised two kids by herself.
When asked how she accomplished so much while balancing parenting and a full-time job, Dr. Long says, in between laughter, “Sometimes you're in the middle of doing things, and you have no idea how you did it.”
Her nonprofit organization, Journey to a Dream, partnered with community colleges to provide vocational training to teen parents. The organization also offered financial support for their educational expenses.
Dr. Long adds that some students didn’t always need support; they just needed somebody to be there to encourage them and help them navigate things. Her daughter, also a teen mom, volunteered for the nonprofit. She has since graduated from University of Phoenix with an MBA.
On the topic of helping others despite her own challenges, she says, "If your presence on Earth doesn't make an imprint on someone, then what is the point? I feel that there is a purpose for the challenges that I've faced in my life. There's a story that I can tell that might give hope to somebody else. If that is what my purpose is, then it was worth it to me to go through the challenges that I went through."
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