East Carolina University graduate student Kristy Cook has always been a Pirate at heart.
“When I was 5 years old, I decided I wanted to go to ECU, and I never changed my mind,” Cook said.
A native of Fountain, Cook has spent the majority of her life in eastern North Carolina. After her grandmother was in a serious car wreck, Cook knew that she wanted a future helping others.
“At first, I thought I wanted to be a therapist,” Cook said. “I have a good bedside manner, so I knew I wanted to help others. Nursing was the best career choice for me.”
After earning a bachelor’s in nursing at ECU, Cook is now enrolled as a doctoral student while working full-time in the special care nursery at Vidant Medical Center.
The BSN to PhD program is designed for students who have earned their bachelor’s degrees in nursing and plan to continue their education through the doctoral program.
The ECU College of Nursing offers programs that allow students to work while getting their degree. As an undergraduate, Cook worked in spinal rehabilitation, mother-baby and intermediate nursery care, and other specialized programs at Vidant.
“ECU has been key to my success as a nurse. The instructors are awesome, and they genuinely care about their student’s academic and professional success,” she said.
At home, Cook continues her passion for care. She has three daughters, ages 10, 4 and 2, whom she hopes to inspire by earning her terminal degree.
Cook also works with the Perinatal Quality Collaborative of NC, collecting data on the treatment and length of stay for newborns going through drug withdrawal at Vidant. Currently, she is analyzing information regarding the overuse of antibiotics in newborns.
Cook also cares for newborns in the intermediate unit who require medication management for withdrawal symptoms.
Cook’s work with addicted mothers led her to research for her doctoral degree.
“It is my plan to work with drug-dependent women who are pregnant to make safe decisions, especially regarding breastfeeding, which can impact their newborns’ withdrawal process and hospital length of stay,” she said. “I am reviewing the literature now to determine my focus for research and my dissertation.”
Although the job can be challenging, Cook says that many aspects of her work are incredibly rewarding.
“The most rewarding part of my job is when parents bring their children back to visit the nurses that cared for them. It’s incredible to see their journey, growth and progress,” said Cook.
In the spring, Cook will be working as both a teaching and research assistant. She hopes to help new nursing graduates feel more comfortable and confident during their transition from school to the workplace. She plans to continue working part time for Vidant.
What advice do you have for other students?
Utilize resources, organize yourself and manage your time.
What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year?
I did not realize that there were GRA/TA positions to help students financially through school.
Written by: Sophronia Knott
Photography by: Cliff Hollis