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A Nurse with the Healing Power of Humor

By Mary Nesfield


Cynthia Long with a young patient.

Cynthia Long, ACB, CL, is the plastic surgery clinical leader at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. A mother of two, she has had to rebuild her life after tragedy stuck in 2008 and she suddenly became a widow. To help her cope with the loss, she was introduced to GriefShare, a program that aids participants in the grief process. She eventually became a GriefShare facilitator and has been leading classes for others since 2009.

The operating room nurse of 38 years is a Ph.D. candidate in communications at Regent University, Virginia. She shares her journey below.


What inspired your growth?

The movie The Bucket List inspired me greatly after my husband’s death. I made a list of things I wanted to do each year, and then in 2014, I finally acted on one item on my list: I joined Toastmasters. And in 2015, I attended a friend’s celebration ceremony for his MD/Ph.D. I was excited for him but felt a little jealous too. I realized then how I had always wanted to go back to school but did not have the courage. It had been 22 years since my last degree. I asked myself: What are my passions in life? What knowledge do I seek? I love my career in healthcare and I love being a Toast­master. I wanted to pursue my passion in the medical field but did not know exactly what avenue to pursue until I became a Toastmaster. It was my commitment as a club member that developed my love for the art and science of communication.

I became a better speaker in Toastmasters, but I also became a better conversationalist and communicator. The seed was planted. I put the two together and started my journey as a scholar of Healthcare Communication.


How has Toastmasters helped you in your work?

The staff has noticed my advances and ease of public speaking. Many surgeons know I am a Toastmaster, and they ask me for suggestions after giving a presentation. In surgery, it is vital to have efficient and effective team communication. Professionals in the healthcare arena are becoming more knowledgeable of its importance.


What topics do you speak about?

I enjoy speaking about courage, perseverance and humor. One humorous speech I delivered, “Dating after Widowhood,” won first place. I had no idea that having started a fire in my date’s bathroom was so funny.

It is imperative to deliver the humorous side of stories for many reasons, including health benefits and stress elimination. I am passionate about a healthy lifestyle, which includes enjoying humor on a daily basis—it’s a great medicine. One of the plastic surgeons I work with and I even deliver jokes during what we call the “pre-emptive analgesia” part of a medical procedure when we wait for the local anesthetic to work. I have become an excellent joke-master and storyteller during surgery.


Can humor help heal grief?

Humor opens the door for healing. It allows us to be vulnerable with each other through sharing our funny stories. I have many funny stories and, as a Toastmaster, I do not hesitate sharing to lighten the atmosphere.


What are some other items on your bucket list?

I am an avid cyclist. I cycled last year in Oxford, England, while I was there taking a class on [the author] C.S. Lewis. This year I will cycle with my daughter along the Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania and next year in Holland. I will continue writing and giving extraordinary speeches in Toastmasters to entertain and educate about the importance of communication, health habits, and life’s lessons.