Bethany Hall-Long Runs To Be Nation's First Nurse Governor

6 Min Read Published June 10, 2024
Bethany Hall-Long Runs To Be Nation's First Nurse Governor

Her career as a nurse in politics may have started accidentally when she was late to a nursing class, but Dr. Hall-Long’s intentions as a politician with the heart and mind of a nurse are crystal clear. “Nurses see where we can make things better—and then they go out and do it,” she says. 

Despite the fact that she’s officially served as the Lieutenant Governor of Delaware for seven years running— Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long PhD, RNC, FAAN, had no intention of ever getting into politics. What’s more, the Registered Nurse who holds a BSN from Thomas Jefferson University, an MSN from the Medical University of South Carolina, and a PhD in health policy and nursing administration from George Mason University, says she initially had no plans to become a healthcare worker either. 

But sometimes, life paves the way, and for Dr. Hall-Long, her core as a nurse shaped her leadership as a legislator. Here’s what the Lieutenant Governor shared with about her career, how her foundation as a nurse influences her policies and politics, and why she thinks nurses get things done for the future. 

Early Introduction to Nursing

Dr. Hall-Long’s first introduction to the healthcare world was a scary one—when she was young growing up on her family farm in southern Delaware, her father suffered a traumatic accident that left him wheelchair-bound and unable to work. Shortly after that, her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer and given a 5% survival rate and still after that, her brother was diagnosed with stage 4 blood cancer. 

Her family faced difficult healthcare challenges, but fortunately, both her mother and brother recovered and are still alive to this day. But the experiences they had as a family with health challenges shaped her “why” for joining the healthcare field, explains Dr. Hall-Long. She began her career as a perinatal nurse with a focus on childbirth education and perinatal grief counseling, then broadened her clinical experience to public health nursing. 

Next, perhaps in a foreshadowing of the leadership roles that would await her, Dr. Hall-Long shifted into teaching undergraduate and PhD nursing and health policy after earning her own advanced degrees. And it was through the process of furthering her own education that she accidentally discovered her passion for politics—all thanks to being late for a class.

“Oddly enough, there was one class I was late for while studying for my MSN,” she remembers. “We were choosing the subject and textbook for a research paper we were going to do for the class and one of the only textbooks left was ‘Policy and Politics in Nursing and Healthcare’ by Diane Mason.”

By stumbling into her passion for politics, Dr. Hall-Long would set the course for her future—and ironically, even later become a contributor to the very textbook that started it all. “I often tell this story to my new nursing students to show them how important it is to always keep their options open and that our career paths can change,” she laughs. “Having an open mind is important!”

As a real-life example of how having an open mind can make a difference, Dr. Hall-Long shares that one of her proudest moments as a professor of nursing and as a state senator was to have a doctoral student’s dissertation become the basis for a law. “It changed the Advanced Practice Nursing Act for our state, advancing independent practice,” she notes. 

Nursing Policy in Action

After her education as a nurse opened her eyes to the political side of healthcare, Dr. Hall-Long sprang into action. For instance, she worked with veterans with mental health challenges who experienced homelessness in South Carolina and shares how that showed her firsthand what “happens when certain populations don't have a voice at the table.”

“Seeing people in need with nowhere to turn sparked my interest in politics,” she adds. She began to get more involved, first with the League of Women Voters, then, while pursuing her PhD, through a mentorship by Brigadier General Hazel Johnson-Brown, the first African American female Brigadier General. Dr. Hall-Long says that it was Johnson-Brown who first helped her “recognize the critical importance of policy on every aspect of nursing,” including “administration, education, research, and practice.”

Once she became involved in politics, Dr. Hall-Long didn’t stop. She worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Commission on Nursing and completed an internship with the U.S. Senate. 

After moving back to Delaware, she realized that the state legislature had never elected a nurse, which spurred her decision to run. Although she was unsuccessful the first time, she won the second time and went on to serve in the Delaware House, Senate, and as Lt. Governor. 

“It’s my great honor to now be running for Governor of our great state,” Dr. Hall-Long says. 

Through a Nurse’s Lens

A fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, Dr. Hall-Long is forthright about how her background as a nurse impacts her outlook on policy and politics. “Throughout my legislative career, I’ve always led through a nurse’s lens,” she says. 

She points out that there are often officials deciding on healthcare policy who lack any type of healthcare background. “It has taught me that an important part of legislating is bringing all stakeholders to the table,” she notes. She’s also a firm believer that nurses are primed for politics. 

“Nurses are very skilled at consensus-building, analyzing a situation, and quickly making decisions that have positive results,” she says. “If we are talking about healthcare policy, you want the doctors, nurses, administrators, and patients to have a voice. You need to recognize how these policies will directly impact people, and having all stakeholders at the table makes for a robust legislative process.”

As a nurse and politician, Dr. Hall-Long is proud of what she says she has accomplished already in her terms as Delaware Lieutenant Governer, which includes:

  • Leading the Delaware Medical Reserve Corps
  • Leading the pandemic resurgence response in Delaware and personally vaccinating 4,000 people in five months
  • Sponsoring or co-sponsoring 1,000 pieces of legislation 
  • Updating the Board of Pardons process for returning citizens
  • Overhauling the Behavioral Health System

Mental health policy has been a top priority of Dr. Hall-Long since her first time in office as a state representative 20 years ago. “My experience in healthcare has given me a first-hand look at the impact it has on families and children in our state,” she explains. “It touches every person in every zip code, whether it is a young adult suffering with substance issues or a veteran with PTSD. We have made tremendous progress, but I know there is always more to do.

She also says she has had the privilege of creating and overseeing the Behavioral Health Consortium, which serves as a model for other states and addresses policy from cradle to grave. 

“Our work has led to the creation of the first overdose system of care, the first impact fee bill, and mental health parity legislation,” she adds. “Nurses see where we can make things better—and then they go out and do it.” 

No matter what happens in her future as a politician, Dr. Hall-Long encourages any nurses who see a need for change to get involved in politics. 

“I always tell other nurses to get started somewhere in their local community,” she says. “The local level is important—school board, town council, city council, and many other positions affect people's lives more than you would think. The best advice I can give is to meet as many people in your community as you can, listen to them, and find issues in your community that you can help address. Your experiences matter.” 

“Nurses get things done,” she sums up. “Don’t be shy, get involved! And never think an idea is silly. Some of the best policy ideas happen at midnight, in the breakroom, or at the bedside.”

Connect with Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long on social media,

To get involved or donate to her campaign, please visit:

Chaunie Brusie
Chaunie Brusie Contributor

Chaunie Brusie, BSN, RN is a nurse-turned-writer with experience in critical care, long-term care, and labor and delivery. Her work has appeared everywhere from Glamor to The New York Times to The Washington Post. Chaunie lives with her husband and five kids in the middle of a hay field in Michigan and you can find more of her work here

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