Courage Under Fire: Nurse Becomes FBI Agent, Shares Life on the Front Lines

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By Kristin Rothwell, NurseZone feature writer

Dressed in a light blue striped nurse uniform and armed with a five-shot Smith & Wesson in her ankle holster, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Candice DeLong is ready to go undercover as a visiting nurse in the hope of nabbing a suspect wanted by the FBI.

Keenly aware that neighborhood residents would be suspicious of a “cop,” DeLong, a former nurse, said, “I was always welcomed with open arms as a public health nurse and I took advantage of that.”

This was just one of several accounts of her FBI experience that DeLong shares in her recently published book, “Special Agent: My Life on the Front Lines as a Woman in the FBI.”

Nurse First

DeLong, who retired from the FBI last July after 20 years of service, thought she had seen it all as a psychiatric nurse. But as an agent, her duties included catching a terrorist who had murdered three men, rescuing an abducted child, capturing a dangerous killer and catching a Class A fugitive (the most dangerous category, an offender known to be violent).

However, DeLong said it was her work as a head nurse in a maximum-security psychiatric unit in Chicago, Illinois, that played a large role in preparing her for life in the FBI.

“[As a psych nurse] you get very attuned to violence,” said DeLong, RN, BSN, who added that “being a psych nurse is not that far afield from being a cop.” She described in her book that on a maximum-security psych ward, “you live under constant stress, with your antennae always up, ready to fly into action at the sound of a thump, a shout, or the drumming of running footsteps.”

Though it was her “calling” to enter the medical field as a psychiatric nurse, she found that after 10 years of working with troubled people afflicted with manic and chronic depression, schizophrenia and mentally disordered sex offenders among others, she was ready to seek out new challenges.

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