The end of an era

The end of an era

College of Nursing dean to retire after almost two decades as dean

By Tracy Brown Wright

Kathleen Ann Long/Photo by Maria Belen Farias

During her 18 years as dean, the longest tenure in the College of Nursing’s history, Kathleen Ann Long, Ph.D., R.N., has overseen two successful academic accreditation processes, the establishment of the college’s first nurse-managed clinic and the raising of almost $28 million during two capital campaigns.

So, it’s hard to fathom she never thought she’d actually become dean of the UF College of Nursing.

“I was from a rural, comprehensive state institution, and this was a major academic health science center whose founding dean, Dorothy Smith, was someone I had read about,” said Long, who was then dean at Montana State University. “I believe the Health Science Center and UF leaders at that time saw me as a risk-taker, as an advocate for nursing, but also someone who was very interested in building collaborative relationships.”

Two decades and dozens of collaborations later, Long will retire at the end of the 2012-2013 academic year, stepping down from her roles as dean and UF associate provost.

Although now one of the country’s most well-known nursing education leaders, Long was not always sure she was meant to be a nurse.

As a child, she stubbornly insisted she would not become a nurse when family members said she would follow in her mother’s footsteps. But one thing her mother and father, a dentist, instilled in her was the importance of education.

“My father was the first generation to go to college and worked very hard to support himself through college,” Long said. “He often said, ‘Get as much education as you can; it is the one thing no one can ever take away from you.’”

Despite earlier protests, she was drawn to nursing. Long attended Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where an early clinical experience taught her about the role nursing faculty members play in preparing others for the profession.

“In one of my first clinical experiences, I was taking care of a new mastectomy patient and was expected to change her dressing,” Long said. “I remember leaving her and going into a supply closet and wondering if I was going to cry or be sick. The support I had from a faculty member that day has stayed with me until today. She said, ‘Your compassion is a wonderful thing. Now you have to learn how to use it correctly. We are going to finish changing her dressing and then we are going to spend some time sitting with her and talking, because if you feel this horrible, imagine how horrible she is going to feel.’ That lesson has stayed with me forever.”

Long earned her master’s degree in child-psychiatric nursing and nursing education from Wayne State University and her Ph.D. in behavioral sciences from Johns Hopkins University. Throughout her career, she has held significant leadership roles in nursing education, including serving as president of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

At UF, Long strengthened many aspects of the college’s mission, devising innovative nursing degree options to help address the nation’s critical nursing shortage. Programs developed on her watch include the accelerated bachelor’s and B.S.N.-to-Ph.D. programs and a five-university initiative to expand nursing doctoral education in Florida. The new clinical nurse leader master’s and the Doctor of Nursing Practice programs have kept UF at the forefront of nursing education.

“I am proud of all we have been able to accomplish together at the UF College of Nursing. I am equally proud of our collaborations and partnerships within UF and across the state,” Long said. “I will always cherish the opportunity I had to become a Gator nurse.”