Rural Health Scholar: Mary Long

Rural Health Scholar: Mary Long

At the age of 12 years old, Mary Long lost her father to cancer—and the impact was something she still feels today. “I can’t really describe how it influenced me, but those hospice nurses were outstanding and it planted a seed, I think,” says Mary, who grew up in central Pennsylvania. After graduating high school, she went into the Army and became a medic. She married and had her first child in 2002, then decided to use her Army benefits to go to nursing school, graduating from San Antonio College in 2007. 

Experience in Texas and Pennsylvania

Mary’s start in nursing was in the Methodist Hospital System in San Antonio, where she first worked in the stepdown unit. After having her third child—a difficult pregnancy—she stepped away from nursing for a short time to focus on motherhood and a move back to Pennsylvania in 2011. 

In Pennsylvania, Mary expanded her experience by doing hospice care at the very same facility that treated her father when she was a child. “It was one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had and I did that full time until 2014 and part time until 2017,” she says. In 2014, Mary joined Evangelical Community Hospital, a small hospital, in the intensive care unit. 

Geisinger Health System

In 2017, Mary joined Geisinger Medical Center and loved it from the start. “I really enjoyed the community hospital, but this environment is exactly what I want,” she says. “I get to treat a variety of patients in a more intensive environment.” 

Many of the patients Mary treats come from rural towns located within an hour or more of the Geisinger campus. “We’re considered a big hospital that serves central and northeastern Pennsylvania, so in any given day, you could see a wide range of patients with different needs.” 

Ready to expand her knowledge

In her job at Geisinger, Mary precepts many nursing students and wanted the opportunity to use her experience to help shape future nurses. “I started thinking about nursing education,” she says. “I researched schools with both BSN and MSN degrees since I had an ADN and found that American Sentinel University is an educational partner of Geisinger. It looked like the best fit for me with eight-week classes, generous tuition reimbursement from Geisinger and a great pathway right into the MSN Nursing Education from the BSN.” 

Rural Health Scholar

Mary started the BSN in October 2020 and shortly after, received the Rural Health Scholarship from American Sentinel. “I was so proud, but it also meant so much to me because someone else is investing in my future,” she says. “That has made me want to work even harder. I’m doing this for myself, but I’m doing it for someone else too.” 

Although she is just months into her BSN program, already Mary feels that the two degrees she’s working toward will serve her well. Down the road, she wants to pursue nurse educator positions at Geisinger or teach clinicals when the opportunity arises. “My passion will be teaching nursing students,” she says. “I love the idea of shaping their minds and outlooks so I can impact more patients at the bedside.” 

American Sentinel has created the Rural Health scholarship program to help healthcare providers and patients overcome obstacles that are different than those in urban areas. Eight scholarships are awarded per year. Congratulations to this quarter’s recipients. Learn more and apply here

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