Love leads the way for this PICU nurse




Kelsi Croy has found her purpose in life. She and her PICU colleagues bring light in the midst of darkness.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer,

Kelsi Croy likes to say that angels walk the hallways of Riley Hospital for Children.

What she doesn’t say is that she is one of those angels in red.

Croy has been a nurse on the PICU at Riley since December 2015. Before that, she spent two years working with adult patients at IU Health University Hospital.

She shies away from the spotlight, always wanting to lift up someone else instead.

“Is it obvious I’m avoiding you,” she joked, before finally agreeing to talk about why nursing is so much more than a profession for her.

It’s not just about what she can do for her patients, but really what they do for her.

“I am able to help them in their journey, and they help me grow in my character,” she said, “so I can be a more giving and selfless person. That’s really important to me.”

Jane Watson, who often works alongside Croy as charge nurse in the PICU, says her younger colleague is the one setting the example.

“She invests in each relationship that she has. She makes each of us feel like we matter. She listens,” Watson said.

Her approach to her work is no different.


Croy grew up in Anderson and attended Ball State University, where she earned her nursing degree.

While in college, she worked with disabled children and adults at the Hopewell Center in Anderson and found her calling helping medically complex kids.

“I knew then that Riley was probably the place for me.”

The pediatric intensive care unit sees some of the most critically ill kids in the hospital. It takes a special person to help support these patients and families day and night.

“Some of these families I’ve been through really difficult times with,” Croy said. “You develop a relationship in really dark times and in light times too. We see a lot of really good things. Kids pull through in situations that you don’t always get to see with adults.”

To be a part of that, she said, gives her purpose that she’s not sure she’d find in any other job or in any other place.

“Being a part of the journey with these kids and families brings a lot of purpose to my life, and developing relationships with people who were once complete strangers really does make you feel like you can make a difference in the world,” she said.

She has an amazing way of connecting with patients and caregivers from the start, Watson said, adding that Croy is a strong advocate for her patients.

“She’s always digging a little deeper, trying to learn more about the diagnosis and brainstorming with the care team – what can we do differently, what can we do better, what is the best plan of care,” Watson said.

For Croy, the motivation is simple.

“The families and kiddos become a huge part of our hearts and have helped me understand ‘love your neighbor’ more and more each day.”


Croy might be better known by her Riley team as Kelsi Lawless. She married Tyler Croy last summer and leans on him and their rescue dogs, Dallas and Quincy, after tough days.

“My husband is a big support to me, and my pups are a huge stress reliever. It doesn’t matter what kind of emotion I’m having, they’re always there for me.”

It’s fair to say dogs feed her spirit. At home and at work. She loves any excuse to get pet therapy dogs up on the PICU, believing they offer the best kind of comfort to a patient or team member who is struggling.

She spends a good deal of her time now in a clinical advising role, guiding new nurses in a way that helps them grow while making them feel supported.

Erin Kramer, nursing professional development practitioner for the PICU and Burn Unit, couldn’t be more proud of the young nurse whom she mentored during Croy’s early days at Riley.

“Kelsi is the most thoughtful nurse and co-worker imaginable,” Kramer said. “She always goes above and beyond to care not only for her patients, but her fellow nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, everyone.”


Watson and Kramer both say Croy is the first person to plan a celebration for any team member’s milestone or to offer a shoulder to lean on in times of distress. She is often the one nominating other people for awards, wanting them to feel seen and appreciated.

Known for her signature headbands, she often brings in colorful headbands or badge reels with flair for other team members and makes “RN” badges for longtime patients to make them feel special. She is always looking for ways to brighten a patient or parent’s day.

“I am so proud of her and her accomplishments,” Kramer said. While it can be hard to maintain a positive attitude in such a stressful environment, “she makes it look easy.”

And it can’t help but spill out to everyone around her.

“Her positivity is infectious,” Kramer said.

“She is always trying to bring joy to our stressful world,” Watson agreed.

Croy has found her second family at Riley, relying on her co-workers just as they rely on her. Her faith also plays an important role.

Her patients, she said, touch her soul.

“If I didn’t believe in God, I’m pretty certain I couldn’t do this job. These kids help us develop into more kind-hearted, understanding and selfless people,” she said. “The world can be such a scary place at times, and as a team, I truly believe we strive to bring light into a dark space for our patients.

“And when we can’t be that light,” she added, “one of our teammates steps in and picks up our defeated souls.”

For Watson, nothing sums up her “work sister” better than Maya Angelou’s inspirational words: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

“That is Kelsi 110 percent,” Watson said. “That is just Kelsi.”

Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual consultant,