Where are they now? Alumni Feature: Grace Long ’19

Grace Long makes the W hand sign in her cap and gown.

Where do you consider your hometown?

I grew up in Janesville, WI, but I’ve lived in Madison for almost a decade and now consider it “home!”

Where do you currently reside, and how are you using your BSN?

I currently live in Madison and work as a bedside nurse in the American Family Children’s Hospital on the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). On top of being a bedside nurse, I also frequently precept (which I very much enjoy), participate in our Unit Council, and am a board member of the Nurses’ Alumni Organization for UW–Madison’s School of Nursing!

Grace Long and a friend at a UW football game.Why did you choose the UW–Madison School of Nursing?

I was already attending UW–Madison and had previously been a political science/communication arts major prior to switching my interest to nursing. I realized that I wanted to be able to help people in a more hands-on capacity that also included my love for science. I loved UW–Madison so much and wanted to stay a Badger through undergrad, so after completing my prerequisites, I applied to the School of Nursing and got in on my second try!

What advice would you give to first-year nursing students or recent grads?

Always stay curious! There is so much to learn in health care, and things are always changing and evolving. When I’m working with students and new grads, I’m always impressed when they ask good questions and are interested in seeing new things. It really goes a long way and makes you a better nurse in the long run!

Who was your favorite instructor, faculty, or staff at the School of Nursing? Why?

I loved having Kyoko as a clinical instructor! She was so supportive and kind, as well as knowledgeable! She also went out of her way to try to find new experiences for us on our unit!

Grace Long and her partner hold a sign that reads "I walk for Felix."What was your favorite experience or fondest memory at the School of Nursing?

My friends and I used to order food for delivery when we were studying at Cooper Hall for midterms/finals! Having a special treat (especially sushi), a good study space, and fun company always made studying so much more enjoyable.

What do you think is the most rewarding part of being a nurse?

Being able to bond with my patients and families and know that I’m really making a difference in their lives. Working in a level IV NICU, I see a wide range of acuity, and it is so rewarding to watch a baby come in critically ill and eventually be able to discharge home. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we’ll also get updates about our patients from their families years later, which is so amazing and makes the tough days worth it!

Grace Long and her partner in front of snow-covered mountains.What do you think is the biggest challenge facing nursing today?

Burnout is something that I notice challenges a lot of my colleagues directly, especially working in a busy academic medical center. We get the sickest of the sick patients, and it can really weigh heavy on your heart. In a challenging environment like this, it is so important to have supportive coworkers and managers. I know that many nurses don’t feel like they have those support systems. I always encourage new nurses on our unit to find outlets outside of work, whether it be exercise, fun hobbies, extra time with friends and loved ones, or even therapy!

Share with us an especially rewarding moment in your career.

I was one of the primary nurses for a baby with an incredibly rare disorder, and the providers weren’t sure that she would survive her first few weeks. They were able to find an effective treatment for her disorder, which allowed her to grow past her critical phase. After several months, she was able to go home with a tracheostomy and G-tube, and eventually got decannulated on her second birthday! It is so amazing to see pictures of her now and remember how sick she was when she first came to us, and it is so rewarding to know that I get to have an impact on the lives of kiddos like her!