Be gentle with yourself. You are a work in progress. Recognize that you are human and that humans are not perfect. If you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up; allow yourself to learn and keep going. So much of our world is go-go-go and win-win-win that it’s hard not to think that that’s how you become more confident.
Starting something new is scary. Learning to believe in yourself can be a critical precursor to starting a new initiative. Why is it so important to learn to believe in yourself? How can someone work on gaining these skills? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders, authors, writers, coaches, medical professionals, teachers, to share empowering insights about “How To Learn To Believe In Yourself.” As a part of this series we had the pleasure of interviewing Betty Long.
Betty Long, RN, MHA, is the President/CEO and Founder of Guardian Nurses Healthcare Advocates and a nationally recognized expert and speaker on patient advocacy. As a registered nurse since 1986, she has experience in clinical, management and consulting capacities. In addition, she has a long history of healthcare advocacy with special expertise in critical care, long-term care and geriatric care management. She is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Case Management Society of America as well as the Forum of Executive Women in Philadelphia. Currently, she serves as President of the Board of Trustees for The Nightingale Awards of Pennsylvania.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born and raised in Philadelphia, the youngest of six children. We lived in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom row home in Southwest Philly. My Dad worked for the Post Office for 35 years before he retired; my Mom went to work as a typist when I was a young girl. I remember my Mom and Dad as hardworking people who gave their children love, laughs, and the occasional new pair of sneakers. My parents, led by example, taught me to work hard, treat everyone with respect, honor my commitments, and say please and thank you! My Mom, in particular, was a huge proponent of education. Neither of my parents could attend college, but thanks to their encouragement, and despite being unable to afford to send us, every one of my siblings and I are college educated.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
It all began when I was a senior in college studying journalism. I wanted to be a sportswriter like Frank DeFord, the much-acclaimed Sports Illustrated writer. In February of my senior year, my 61-year-old Mom was diagnosed with liver cancer during my last semester. While she was an inpatient, I met a nurse — Marsha Davidson — -who changed my life. One day, I received a call from my Dad telling me, “It’s malignant,” I rushed to the hospital. As I exited the elevators to head down the hall to my Mom’s room, a nurse stepped out from the nurses’ station and intercepted me. Somehow, she knew who I was and why I had come. She gently asked me to follow her, and she led me to the chapel, offered me a seat, and told me she would get my Mom and my sister. They arrived a few minutes later, minus Marsha, and while I do not remember what was said, I do remember Marsha’s kindness. She knew that seeing my Mom after learning of her diagnosis would be difficult, and she anticipated that we’d want the protected quiet of the chapel rather than talking in my Mom’s wardroom of four patients. Every day after that, when I visited during the evening ‘visiting hours,’ I watched Marsha as she cared for all the patients in my Mom’s room. She was kind, compassionate, smart, and had a great sense of humor which she freely used to make my Mom and the other patients laugh. While Marsha’s care of my Mom didn’t change the gravity of her stage four diagnosis, it made me see how impactful one nurse could be.
Mom was discharged one week later and received a few chemo treatments. In April, she had another hospital admission, at which time she said, “Enough” and stopped treatment. She died four months later. I graduated in August and began working full-time in a non-writing job at the Philadelphia Inquirer. One year later, inspired by Marsha’s acts of service for my Mom, I started nursing school at Abington Hospital’s School of Nursing.
Ten years later, I saw Marsha at a restaurant in Philadelphia by chance. I approached her and said, ‘I don’t know if you remember me…” And before I could say “Peg Long,” she said, “I know who you are; you’re Peg Long’s daughter.” She even remembered my Mom’s room and bed number! I smiled and said, “Well, I just wanted to know that you’re the reason I became a nurse.” In typical Marsha humor, she replied, “Don’t blame that on me!” We are still friends to this day. She is retired and still has a fantastic sense of humor! And I have never regretted becoming a nurse.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This story may not be funny in the traditional sense, but, In 2004, I worked part-time evenings at the hospital as a nursing supervisor while building Guardian Nurses. My days often consisted of making presentations, meeting folks for lunch, establishing the business, and helping patients when I would get a case. I often told patients, “Don’t worry about paying me. Your mom is sick.” Or “It’s OK, it only took me three hours,” and I wouldn’t bill them. It was coming to the end of the year, and I was reviewing our revenue for 2004. I had made $15,000. I laughed because here I was, working on the business, working in the evenings at the hospital, and I thought, “Well, this is going to be a great hobby! If I ever want to leave the hospital, I must start CHARGING for my services.” The lesson? Don’t sell yourself short. You have value. Your time is valuable. And I tell nurses who want to start their businesses, “If you can’t hold your head high and confidently share your hourly rate,” then don’t bother walking out the door.
So again, not funny, ha-ha, but I look back at that time and think, “Who was I kidding?”
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I have been talking with several people throughout the U.S. about how Guardian Nurses can grow our business into other ways of coordinating care by advocating for patients. Most people will acknowledge that our healthcare system is confusing, frustrating, and sometimes frightening. So we know that many more people could benefit from our nurses’ support. One of the ideas is to provide clinical, high-touch support to organizations providing care at home or hospital-at-home services. Our nurses are mobile; they are in the community, know the healthcare systems, and are fantastic patient advocates! We have a nurse-positive culture at Guardian Nurses, so recruiting nurses to our team is not hard. Many veteran nurses are eager to work in an organization that values their work and lets them be nurses.
Growing our footprint will help people because we have successfully done it for 20 years!
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to believe in yourself? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Believing in yourself is important to your health and success -whatever you do! My Mom would often tell me, “If you’re going to do something, do it right.” Having the confidence to do something right helps you feel better about yourself, which translates into better health! So many patients I’ve worked with over the years didn’t believe that they deserved to feel good or to ask for what they needed, and they allowed the healthcare system/bureaucracy to dictate their journey.
Guardian Nurses’ goal is to empower our patients to advocate for THEMSELVES, not rely on our nurse advocates to do it for them. But to reach that goal, we have to encourage patients that they deserve good care, answers from their physicians, and the best treatment.
What exactly does it mean to believe in yourself? Can I believe that I can be a great artist even though I’m not very talented? Can I believe I can be a gold medal Olympic even if I’m not athletic? Can you please explain what you mean?
No, I do not believe those scenarios would be ‘doable.’ Believing in yourself is much different than having talents or the skills to accomplish a goal. I think someone has to recognize their God-given talents and capitalize on them.
However, what might be important in that question is the JOURNEY that the non-athletic person takes to try to be an Olympic athlete — recognizing that the journey may be as important to a person’s self-esteem as the outcome.
Was there a time when you did not believe in yourself? How did this impact your choices?
There have been times when I was less confident, especially in the early days of Guardian Nurses and throughout my life. The one that comes to mind is when I began the company. I wouldn’t say I was naïve in thinking I could start a business, having never been a businessperson, but I had doubts. But when I described what I did to people, no one said, “That’s a horrible idea.” What they said was, “Great idea. How will you get paid?” I assumed that I would hang up my nurse advocate shingle and people would pay hourly. While that assumption did hold for people I charged, there weren’t enough people to charge to make a living. And so, while I believed the business idea was good, I just had to figure out how to get paid. I eventually figured it out and have grown the business to where we now have 53 full-time employees in four states.
At what point did you realize that in order to get to the next level, it would be necessary to build up your belief in yourself? Can you share the story with us?
I mentioned in an earlier question about the lack of revenue in my first year — only because I didn’t charge people (I don’t recommend it if you’re starting a business!). After that first year, I had to figure out how to get paid. My options were becoming more comfortable saying, “We charge $150/hour”, finding a different way to get paid, or closing the business. Great idea, but you can’t make any money. Besides working part-time evening shifts at the hospital, I supplemented my income by working for a dear friend with a nurse executive search firm. One day, she came into my office and said, “Betty, you’re doing a great job, but I’m going to let you go. The only way you’ll grow Guardian Nurses is to jump in with both feet, so I will help you by firing you.” She was right, of course. My motivation to build my business remained impacted as long as I had these jobs that paid me well.
I would get there in time. What was the rush? But the firing led me to get my first union client, the Philadelphia Police union’s health & welfare fund, Law Enforcement Health Benefits. They wanted to hire me, under Guardian Nurses, to help their members navigate the healthcare system. And the Guardian Nurses’ payment model was born!
One of my first patients was an officer diagnosed with a brain tumor, and he told me he needed surgery in two weeks. The Fund Office called me; I worked with him and expedited an appointment with another neurosurgeon who said, “Let’s wait…I don’t think this is urgent.” Six months later, his “tumor” was gone!
What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves? Please share a story or example for each.
1 . Find a mentor. I once heard a quote, “Every child should have one person in their life who thinks they hang the moon.” It doesn’t have to be their parent or even a family member. Maybe a piano teacher, maybe their soccer coach, just someone who recognizes the child and gives them positive encouragement and, if appropriate, love and affection.
2 . Focus on being positive. When you focus on something, your wants become your reality. Eliminate negative ‘self-talk.’ Consider daily positive affirmations. I used to stick 3×5 cards on my computer screen at work, which helped remind myself to remain positive.
3 . Don’t torture yourself by worrying about what other people think. We give people way too much credit. I saw a meme once that said, “Stop worrying about what other people think. I mean, have you met other people? They’re awful.” Maybe not the kindest meme, but it did make me chuckle.
4 . Be open to feedback. I read a book where Ken Blanchard, an American author, business consultant, and motivational speaker, wrote, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” I have always asked for feedback and offered feedback to colleagues, friends, and family members. I believe that we can only get better if we can understand what is holding us back. While it does have the possibility of making us feel nauseous, in the end, hearing constructive feedback — emphasis on constructive — can help you grow more confident.
5 . Be gentle with yourself. You are a work in progress. Recognize that you are human and that humans are not perfect. If you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up; allow yourself to learn and keep going. So much of our world is go-go-go and win-win-win that it’s hard not to think that that’s how you become more confident.
Conversely, how can one stop the negative stream of self-criticism that often accompanies us as we try to grow?
First, try recognizing that it IS negative and get away from it. Experts say that when we can greet one negative thought, experience, or sentiment with five positive ones, we can offset our negativity bias. After all, it’s only ONE comment — -get past it. What is the worst thing that could happen?
Are there any misconceptions about self-confidence and believing in oneself that you would like to dispel?
I’m not sure if I’d say this is a misconception, but there is a difference between self-confidence and bragging about yourself. No one likes someone who needs to tell you all about themselves. Is it common knowledge that the person who brags the most is likely the one who is the least confident?
Another one I’d like to speak to is that someone who is self-confident isn’t ever doubtful or doesn’t have ‘down’ days. While I find that confident people have more positive attitudes about life in general, some days get you down, and you need to acknowledge those days.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with imposter syndrome?
Don’t listen to the voices in your head. Quiet them and remember that you didn’t get to where you are just by yourself. People helped you. People who believed in you and knew that you could be successful. They can’t all be wrong, can they?
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
There are so many! I will give two choices:
1. Eliminating hunger. Hunger and malnutrition are part of an ongoing cycle, both a cause and effect of many other factors, like inequality and lack of education. The world produces enough food to feed everyone, but access to food is limited. The problem is access and availability, both of which are disrupted by things like extreme weather, food waste, one’s gender, and — worst of all — conflict.
2. Create a world where everyone would be kinder and more compassionate.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
There are SO MANY! But, given my rabid interest in all things healthcare-related, I’d say, Mark Cuban, the American businessman who has become a healthcare disruptor after creating and building many successful businesses! His company, Cost Plus Drug, provides safe, affordable medicine or medications with transparent low prices. Finally, someone with the b***s to challenge the exorbitant pricing of the pharmaceutical industry! I’ve read that Cost Plus Drug (which IS for-profit) is his attempt to prove that disruption can be a form of benevolence. The online pharmacy aims to undercut the greed of the healthcare industry by selling generic drugs for a fraction of the typical price to make drugs more affordable and still make a profit. I would love to talk with him about his motivation for creating the company and his vision and goals for its future.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Guardian Nurses has a social media presence on LinkedIn and Facebook, so folks can follow us there. Additionally, I would invite your readers to sign up for Guardian Nurses’ monthly e-newsletter, The Flame, which I create and write, as well as listen to our “Lighting Your Way” podcast, which is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google, and on the Guardian Nurses website.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.