Saving Lives Way Up High

Not many people can say that their job is to care for patients 8,000 feet in the air, but Nicole McCoy can!

Nicole has gone all around the nursing spectrum, from the ER, to hospice care, to neonatal care, and now transport nursing, but she has always dreamed of becoming a flight nurse.  In nursing school, her and a friend used to joke about creating their own flight team.

About six years after graduating, one of her friends became a flight nurse for an adult medical team. She envied his position, but never thought she would be able to achieve that in the NICU world. “I remember thinking how awesome it was that he was able to work his way to such a highly respected position”, she said.

She had completed a transport team mentorship with a previous NICU team, but did not end up training for their team. After seeing the opening for a transport team at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, she immediately applied and was offered this once in a lifetime opportunity.

She is currently being trained to go out to other hospitals that do not have the ability to care for critically ill patients and her job is assessing the patient’s, creating a plan of care, and providing life saving interventions. “I take tests every couple of weeks about new information regarding airway management, breathing, circulation, and all of the diagnoses that fall under those categories such as seizures, diabetes, brain bleeds and heart arrhythmias, to name a few”. Within this training time, she also spends time in the Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit. By the end of her six month orientation and training, she will be certified in Neonatal Resuscitation, Pediatric Life Support, Advanced Life Support, Trauma, and Emergency nursing.

Most of her transports so far have been within Illinois or surrounding areas, but her team has transported as far as Australia before. The transport team she is on is one of the Midwest leaders in neonatal and pediatric transport and the hospital is ranked as one of the nation’s best children’s hospitals. The hospital values their employees and always makes the staff feel appreciated, which is important in a line of work that can be difficult at times. She loves working for this children’s hospital because the atmosphere is much different from an adult hospital. “Everyone is so friendly! The staff there whether you are in housekeeping, nursing, or food service are there everyday because they want to be there and they want to do great things for the children”, she said. “They make everything about the children, ranging from paintings on the walls, to daily activities, to prom, to the quality of nursing staff”. 

When she started the job, they warned her about how difficult it would be but she was ready for the challenge. “I would say my biggest challenge of all has been learning and mastering everything I have to learn about the pediatric population since my background is NICU”. She went from taking care of premature babies to taking care of all children, up to the age of 18.

Though she has doubted herself at times, she has never regretted her decision of pursuing this career. “I am proud of the fact that I was able to work hard in my career and have the opportunity to work in such a highly ranked and respected hospital in the nation”, she said, “I am excited to see how much I grow in this position and know that when I look back all the hard work will be worth it”.


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