Nicole Friel, standing just a hair over 5 feet tall, lives at more than 7,500 feet above sea level, commutes to work on a motorcycle, downhill skis and jumps out of perfectly good airplanes. Raised in Colorado Springs, Friel said she always knew what she was going to do when she grew up.
Friel, a certified emergency room nurse at Longmont United Hospital, has found working in the emergency room helps quell her desire to work in an environment that is both fast-paced and challenging.
"Ever since I can remember," she said, "I’ve wanted to be a nurse – there has never even been a question."
"My dad was an army medic and he was always wearing these green scrubs," Friel said. "To this day, even though he’s not in the Army anymore, he still wears his 25-year-old scrubs." Growing up in a medical family, Friel also accepted as normal many things she later found were not quite common practice in other households.
"We never had a pizza cutter growing up," she said. "We always just cut the pizza with trauma shears because that’s what we had around." Another surprise with the scissors came once she went to school. "I was surprised when I was handed scissors in school and they didn’t have bend in them," she said.
Throughout school, Friel took classes that just seemed natural to her. "When I had an opportunity to take elective classes in high school, I always went for things like anatomy and physiology," she said. "I was never really interested in the drama or art classes."
Upon graduation from high school, Friel decided to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. During one of her first rotations in nursing school, Friel saw a patient code. During the frenzy of activity that surrounded that event, Friel made the decision to try and be as prepared for every situation as possible.
"During that code, I decided that there was no way I’m not going to know what to do when someone is that ill," Friel said. She became an emergency medical technician to try to hone as many skills as she could from the varied situations being an EMT exposed her to before becoming a nurse.
While earning her degree, Friel completed a six-week internship at Estes Park Medical Center. Because the first signs of a national nursing shortage were starting to show at the time, Friel was able to start in the emergency room, where she worked for two years. Because of the hospital’s size, there were plenty of opportunities for her to learn and experience many elements of the medical field.
"Once, while working in Estes Park, I assisted in the delivery of a baby, helped with a critical heart attack patient and worked with an operating room case all in one night. It was an interesting night to say the least."
After her exposure to the wide-ranging elements of nursing at Estes Park, Friel decided to concentrate her efforts in emergency room work at Longmont United Hospital.
"I wanted to specialize in the emergency room," she said. "I like the quick pace and the huge variety of patients that come in during a shift – you have to deal with everything from infants to the elderly."
Aside from the quick pace, Friel also enjoys the challenge of emergency room work. "You have to specialize in almost everything and be able to think and act both quickly and accurately," she said. "I enjoy the challenge."
Friel said another great aspect of working in the emergency room is the different people with whom she gets to work. "All my co-workers are really interesting and autonomous people that have worked in places all over the world," she said. "There are so many things you can do in this field."
At 26, Friel has many career options ahead, but added she always anticipates working in the fast-paced environment. "I plan to stay in critical care services," she said. "I’ve thought about trying to get into critical care transport, and I would really like to try flight nursing."
When asked what she has missed most working only in the emergency room, Friel said she misses the follow-up on how a patient is doing. "It’s always really nice when family members come back and thank you for your help," she said. "It’s always nice to hear how things went – you miss out on a lot of follow-up information in the emergency room."