Nursing is a Calling

Longtime LMH Nurses Reflect on Rewards of Their Calling

| 2017 Q2 | By Caroline Trowbridge, Marketing Communications Manager, Lawrence Memorial Hospital


LMH-Nurses_Vickie Friel, left, and Sylvia Black

There wasn’t any hesitation.

Not if two little girls—one in south-central Wisconsin, one in eastern Kansas—were asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“When I was 7, I got a nurses kit for Christmas—a stethoscope, little candy pills, a hat, a cape. I put it on. I don’t think I took it off. I wore it all day, and I’m sure I went to bed in it,” recalls Vickie Friel, who, this month, celebrates 40 years in nursing at Lawrence Memorial Hospital (LMH). In June, she will mark the 50th anniversary of her start in the profession.

Clearly, the little girl from Reedsburg, Wisconsin, knew her own mind.

“I’ve had the perfect job at the perfect place,” she says.

It’s been much the same for Lawrence native Sylvia Black.

Before Friel hired her as an obstetrics nurse 32 years ago, Black had lots of experience with LMH. She’d worked as an aide there for four years during school. She was born at LMH. She’d been a candy striper at LMH.

“I don’t remember anything but wanting to be a nurse,” Black says. “When I might struggle with my science courses, I would ask myself, ‘What else do I want to do?’ There was always a blank there because there was nothing else that I wanted to do.”

As these women, who are two of the longest-employed nurses at LMH, celebrated National Nurses Week last month, neither was thinking much about retirement.

Of course, Friel, who now works alongside Dr. Roger Dreiling, at Cardiovascular Specialists of Lawrence, has cut her schedule to three days a week.

“That seemed like a great way to extend my career,” she explains. “At this point, I don’t have plans to retire. I feel like, as long as I’m mentally sharp and physically, I’ll continue. I love the people I work with. I love the patients.”

Friel also works at staying physically fit. She loves downhill skiing and, for 30 years, has been a member of the National Ski Patrol at Snow Creek, near Weston, Missouri. The year she turned 60, she traveled to Colorado to ski the steepest run in North America, she hiked the Grand Canyon, and she ran her first marathon.

For Black and Friel, nursing has provided them flexibility for life away from nursing and certainly as they raised their children. Black, who has worked in the mother/baby or pediatrics units since Friel hired her, moved to the night shift 27 years ago so she and her husband could more easily care for their three daughters.

“It works for us. It doesn’t work for everybody,” Black says.

Each woman has tremendous pride in the hospital where they have found a home.

“We are a family,” says Black, whose coworkers affectionately refer to her as “Mama Bear.” “This is family. I have a family outside of LMH, and this is a family inside LMH.”

While Black’s career has focused on expectant mothers and fathers, and children, Friel has done a bit of everything—cardiology, intensive care, the emergency room and maternal-child, where she was director for more than 15 years.

During their long careers at Lawrence’s community hospital, change has been a constant.

Gone are the days when oncology patients waited in LMH’s lobby before boarding a van to leave town for treatment. Now, many of those patients are treated here. Gone are the days when patients smoked in their rooms, and staff could smoke in the lounge. “We don’t do that anymore, and that’s a good thing,” Black says smiling. And gone are the days when nurses used pens and paper to write in patients’ charts.


Truven Health

“We have a whole floor (for IT) in this hospital that didn’t exist when I started,” Friel explains.

And the patient/physician relationship has changed. From her vantage point, Friel says, doctors have mellowed. They’re listening more to patients, who have become more active participants in their health care.

“It’s a kinder, more helpful environment than ever before,” she says.

In the past 40 years, the LMH complex of buildings has more than doubled in size. Outpatient visits to the hospital have skyrocketed, while in-patient stays have grown shorter.

“A lot of care is being assumed at home that used to be our care,” Black says.

But the depth and breadth of care available at LMH has expanded.

“What the hospital has been able to offer the community is so incredible,” Black continues. “I’ve seen that growth, and I’m very proud of that. We’re a great community hospital, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

LMH is recruiting nurses who are committed to exceptional patient care. For information about nursing opportunities at LMH and affiliated practices, visit

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