An emergency medical crisis is one of life’s scariest experiences. Whether for yourself or a family member, trips to the ER are overwhelming and full of unknowns. At Harbor Regional Health, their new Emergency Department Director Nicole Simons works to keep patients safe, supported, informed and cared for during the duration of their stay.

 Nicole Simons  headshot
Harbor Regional Health’s new Emergency Department Director is Nicole Simons who started in the role mid-May 2022.Photo courtesy: Harbor Regional Health

Nicole Simons moved to Washington for college and immediately fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. “For the past 21 years, I have lived all over the Puget Sound area. I always loved the smaller town feel and moved out to Montesano in 2016. I think Grays Harbor is a great place to live and work and most importantly a great place to raise a family.”

Simons has a passion for her work, and it shows. “Since, moving to Grays Harbor, it has been very important to me to use my skills towards improving health care delivery for my family, friends and community at large,” she explains. “From 2016 to 2020, I was the Manager of Nursing Services at Summit Pacific. In that position, I gained many skills in rural hospital leadership and fostered strong partnerships with other community leaders working to improve health care for Grays Harbor residents.”

These relationships served her well. “It was from these community partnerships that I learned of the job opening for the Emergency Department Director at Harbor Regional,” Simons continues. “After having the opportunity to discuss the position with the newly appointed CNO, Dori Unterseher, I was excited to apply for a position where the executive leadership is passionate about improving the care experience for both the patients who need care and the staff who have committed their careers to serving the community. Thankfully, they saw my skill set as match for the position and I started as Emergency Department Director mid-May of this year.”

A career in nursing has provided Simons with a variety of experiences, roles and ways to help. “The wonderful thing about nursing is that there are many different health care environments and specialties to choose from. Prior to obtaining my nursing degree, I worked as a CNA in pediatric healthcare environments. I originally thought my RN career path would be similar in pediatrics or labor and delivery.”

Nicole Simons standing with a male nurse at Harbor Regional Health
Nursing, especially in the emergency department, is unique and a great way to support residents when they need help and kindness the most. Photo courtesy: Harbor Regional Health

“However,” says Simons, “I entered nursing as a nursing resident in Critical Care. This opportunity ended up being the catalyst for my current career and helped me gain immense knowledge and skill working with very ill patients. When I transitioned to the Emergency Department a couple years later, I found the perfect blend of critical care nursing skills and taking care of patients of all ages with a wide variety of medical needs. I love the intensity and diversity of patient care.”

Especially in a more rural environment. Having worked in hospitals big and small, Simons thinks “smaller, rural hospitals have the power to make big impacts in the community. As hospitals not connected to larger healthcare systems, they have the ability to tailor care and the patient experience to the communities they serve. Because of the smaller size of rural settings, I love the opportunity to get to know all the employees individually and greet staff in all departments by name. There is a feeling of connectedness and teamwork you can’t find in larger settings.”

Harbor Regional Health Emergency Department

The emergency department is unlike any other healthcare environment, says Simons. “We do not have a set number of appointment or visit times and the number of ambulances that arrive at any given time are unpredictable.”

Nicole Simons standing behind two nurses sitting at desks
Simons fell in love with the Pacific Northwest in college and has chosen Grays Harbor for its small size and amazing people. Photo courtesy: Harbor Regional Health

But despite the chaos, our goal is to provide outstanding and timely care to all patients that seek care she adds. “At times we may have to quickly prioritize provider and nursing care to critically ill patients while ensuring care for stable patients continues as efficiently as possible. Staff should be informing all patients what the next procedure or step is in their visit and the reason for any waiting period. I want all patients to feel they have received great and informed care during their visit to Harbor Regional Emergency Department and we welcome feedback from any patient or family member on how we could improve the patient experience.”

Now that she’s settling in, Simons has two primary goals. She hopes to regain the community’s trust in using this Emergency Department as their place of choice to obtain care, Simon says. “We have highly skilled, knowledgeable, and compassionate providers and staff who are committed to providing outstanding care. Secondly, I am eager to make the Emergency Department one of the best healthcare environments to work in. Staff who feel supported and enjoy their work environment, provider a better patient experience. I am actively seeking RNs, CNAs, and EMTs who want to join our team and make the Harbor Regional Emergency Department the best place to work and receive care.”

When not working, she loves gardening, assisting with youth sports, raising chickens, floating the Wynoochee river in the summer, and being involved in community organizations. She currently serves as a board member for Connections; a council member for Grays Harbor EMS Council; and she is on the Grays Harbor College Nursing Program Advisory Board. “All of these organizations work to improve the health and quality of life for Grays Harbor residents,” explains Simon. “I am passionate about this community and working with organizations that work to make it a better place.”

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