Cheryl Hooks poses for a photo outside of the Kenansville Family Medicine practice, where she sees her patients.

Cheryl Hooks, a family nurse practitioner (FNP), is a Rose Hill native who started her career cutting hair. “For a very long time, about 20 years, I worked as a cosmetologist and I owned my own beauty salon,” Cheryl said.

Things changed for her and her close-knit family when they learned her oldest niece, nine years old at the time, had juvenile, or Type 1, diabetes.

“She got sick and had to go to the hospital, and that’s how they found out she was diabetic,” Cheryl said. “It was very scary because no one really knew what to do or how to help her.”

Cheryl wanted to learn all she could about the illness, including about medications and diet, so she could better support her niece; but in the process, she realized she wanted to advocate for all individuals with health problems. That’s when she decided to become a nurse.

Making the shift to nursing wasn’t easy. “I was older and trying to manage my time. You go from a point where you are your own boss to not having that freedom because you’re in school,” she said.

Still, her desire to take care of people inspired her to keep going. After graduating with her RN from Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, Hooks worked at ECU Health Duplin Hospital while pursuing her BSN from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Wilmington. She started her health care career in behavioral health, and later worked in the emergency department, where she realized the need in her community for primary care services. As a result, she went back to school to pursue her doctor of nursing practice degree in family medicine from UNC Chapel Hill, from which she graduated in 2022.

While she sometimes misses her work as a cosmetologist, Cheryl said many of the skills she used in her salon inform the way she works with her patients today.

“Owning a business gave me confidence. I was introverted, but taking care of my clients gave me self-assurance,” Cheryl said. “I treasure the trust between me and my patients, and the skills I used behind the chair trickled down to patient care.”

Cheryl now practices at ECU Health Family Medicine – Kenansville, a multi-specialty family medicine clinic, and she loves her team.

“I am thankful for the people I work with and for the opportunity to work in a rural setting,” she said. “A lot of people have the misconception that in rural areas you don’t get to see as much as in other places, but we do. We get to see many things nurses don’t often get to experience – we have family medicine, orthopedics and cardiology all in the same place. We learn so much because the resources aren’t as vast.” Cheryl also enjoys working near her hometown. “I am not a city girl, and I knew I wanted to work closer to home. Now I get to take care of people in my own community,” she said. “I still get to take care of the ladies who sat in my salon chair; now I make sure they’re healthy.”

For those considering a career change to health care, Cheryl has a few words of wisdom. “I say go for it. If you’re not on the path that’s fulfilling you, take that first step. It’s never too late to do what you are meant to do; there’s no expiration date on your dreams.”

Family Medicine & Primary Care | Featured | Nursing

Trish Baise poses for a photo with Jay Briley and Stephanie Seburn during the Magnet Designation celebration.

It is no secret that ECU Health’s mission to improve the health and well-being of the region is directly tied to the success of recruiting the best providers, nurses and care teams. The ongoing labor shortage makes it more important than ever to have a compelling reputation that attracts a talented workforce committed to eastern North Carolina.

Headshot of Trish Baise

Trish Baise, ECU Health Chief Nursing Executive

During my first year at ECU Health as chief nursing executive, my team and I set out to gain a deep understanding of ECU Health nursing. The goal was to highlight and leverage the incredible strengths while also identifying the work needed to create and sustain a culture of nursing excellence. Our commitment is to ensure the organization fosters an environment where nurses can flourish, grow professionally and have a meaningful nursing experience while providing safe and highly reliable human-centered care.

This challenging work has already resulted in important achievements that affirm our standing as a world-class nursing organization. Most recently, ECU Health Medical Center achieved Magnet recognition – the highest national honor for exemplary nursing practice – for the third consecutive time, highlighting our commitment to creating a nursing ecosystem that embodies excellence. Less than 10% of hospitals in the United States have Magnet designation and ECU Health Medical Center is one of only eleven in North Carolina.
This achievement is the celebration of our collaborative work, but it is not the destination. We are just beginning our efforts to propel nursing at ECU Health to unprecedented heights, making it adaptable to the ever-changing health care industry.

The Path Forward for ECU Health Nursing

We are taking bold steps forward. At ECU Health, we are not just reacting to the future of nursing, we are defining it. We are co-designing an empowering environment for our nurses to innovate and excel, enhancing patient care, and setting a new standard for nursing excellence in rural health and beyond.

At the core of this work is an inclusive approach to re-imagining and elevating nursing at ECU Health we have named Advancing Nursing Practice and Excellence (APEX). It began as a broad research project, capturing the voices of our nurses across the entire health system to ensure we had a deep understanding and appreciation for our environment. We are using the information gained during this research to inform our nursing strategic plan and design the work ahead, ensuring our nurses are a part of it every step of the way.

APEX will be the model for nursing excellence, innovation, research and education in rural health and beyond. Unifying leadership, technology and evidence-based practices, APEX exemplifies the future of human-centered care.

Investing in Future Nurses

In addition to our APEX work, we are committed to strong partnerships and innovative collaborations alongside our academic partners in the region including East Carolina University and local community colleges to offer training programs for the next generation of health care professionals. Our nationally accredited Nurse Residency Program empowers graduate nurses to select from various clinical areas, aligning with their professional aspirations. Our structured, evidence-based program pairs new nurses with experienced mentors, fostering skill refinement and growth. Upon completion, participants gain practical experience, enhance critical thinking, and transition confidently into their nursing careers.

What This Means for Our Communities

Through our APEX work, ECU Health is cultivating a thriving nursing environment empowered and engaged to lead innovations that support improved quality of patient care and enhanced patient experience for those across our region. Together, with our nurses, we will be publishing our work – sharing the unprecedented work taking place in eastern North Carolina as we create the national model for rural health nursing excellence.

Our Magnet recognition is a reminder of ECU Health’s long-standing legacy of nursing excellence, and we are proud to propel that legacy into the future with these continued efforts. Additionally, our nurse residency program will play a vital role in training the next generation of nurses. By contributing to a healthier, more resilient community with improved health outcomes, we embody the state motto of North Carolina,“Esse quam videri,” which means “To be, rather than to seem.” This marks only the beginning of an incredible journey of continuous improvement and innovation for ECU Health. I take immense pride in our new strategic direction for nursing and feel privileged to collaborate with the best nurses in the country.

Editorial | Nursing

A man discusses symptoms with a nurse

ECU Health offers many opportunities for team members to further their education and pursue their dreams, including the HomeGrown Program and tuition reimbursement. After years of deferring her dream to become a nurse, Michelle Dixon, now a staff nurse IV working in the ECU Health Patient Testing Center, used the HomeGrown Program and tuition reimbursement to receive her associate’s degree in nursing.

Michelle Dixon, staff nurse IV working in the ECU Health Patient Testing Center.

Michelle Dixon

When she was in high school, Michelle said she didn’t have many people encouraging her in her education.

“My plan was to be a childcare teacher because I love kids,” she said. But her brother’s mentor, George Lauteres, encouraged her to think about nursing as a career. “He always wanted to see my reports cards and said, ‘Michelle you are smart; you should be a nurse.’ And then he’d bring the newspaper to show me how many nursing jobs there were. He said, ‘You’ll always have a job.’”

After high school, Michelle attended Pitt Community College to complete her prerequisites for the nursing program, but she ended up having to drop out due to changes in her circumstances. She worked in various jobs until a connection through a temp agency in 1998 landed her a position at what was then know as Pitt County Memorial Hospital, now ECU Health, in the Central Services Department, where she worked for eight years.

“But there was a point when I wanted to do more,” Michelle said; and that’s when she thought about her original plan to become a nurse.

She heard about the HomeGrown program through co-workers who were going through the program to become surgical technicians. When her manager in Central Services, Audrey Williams, learned Michelle was interested in a career change, she supported her fully.

“She made it possible for me to work the hours I needed so I could take classes and participate in clinicals,” Michelle said. “She did everything she could to help me, and every time I completed a class, I couldn’t wait to show her my grades. She made me want to be better.”

The HomeGrown Program allows ECU Health team members to go back to school for specific degree programs, including RN, surgical technology or respiratory therapy, while working 20 hours a week and keeping their full salary and benefits. This was enormously helpful to Michelle, who said that without the program, she would not have been able to continue to work while also working toward her degree: “I was able to work 10 hours on Saturdays and 10 on Sundays, which let me take my classes and study and attend clinicals during the week.”

Applying for the program was easy; “it was getting into the program that was the hard part,” she laughed. Through the HomeGrown Program and with her manager’s support, Michelle completed her degree in 2008. After graduation, she joined the 2 South team in Internal Medicine, and she trained as a charge nurse and clinical coach.

In 2020, Michelle again felt there was more she wanted to do, so she returned to school to get her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington (UNCW).  It was at this point she joined the team in Patient Testing Services. Again, she found herself surrounded by supportive and encouraging mentors. Heather Smith and Glenda Flemmings, both RNs in the Patient Testing Center, encouraged Dixon to complete the Aspiring Nurse Leader Program and pursue certification in Ambulatory Care Nursing.

“They allowed me to take the time I needed, and they encouraged me to get my master’s, which is what I decided to do,” she said. Using ECU Health’s tuition reimbursement, Dixon recently returned to UNCW to get her master’s in Healthcare Administration.

Michelle said without the HomeGrown Program and tuition reimbursement, as well as the support she received from her mentors along the way, she wouldn’t have been able to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.

“For that initial nursing degree, I had to go to clinicals, and I just couldn’t do that and work 40 hours a week. I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to go back to school and be a nurse.” And she loves being nurse, mostly because of the time she gets to spend with patients. “I feel like I’ve learned as much from them as I have from my education,” she said. “They help me appreciate life and give me a whole new perspective.”

The HomeGrown Program, Michelle said, is important because it helps entry-level team members like her to grow the organization from within.

“This is a way we can grow our own team members and keep them within the organization,” she said. “With the nursing shortage, these types of positions are crucial.” That’s why Michelle wants everyone to know about the HomeGrown Program and tuition reimbursement. “Because of ECU Health, I am the first person in my family of 13 children to graduate from college,” she said. “A lot of people have aspirations like me, but they don’t know the route to get there.”

The HomeGrown Program has been offered at ECU Health for more than 30 years, and candidates are selected through a highly competitive application process. Team members must meet eligibility requirements and go through interviews before being admitted to their program. After successfully graduating, team members have a two-year commitment to work full-time for ECU Health.

Featured | Nursing

ECU Health nurses celebrate after learning they had achieved Magnet recertification.

Greenville, N.C.ECU Health Medical Center has once again earned Magnet® recognition, which is awarded every four years and represents the highest national honor for professional nursing practice, marking its third consecutive successful accreditation for exemplary nursing practice. The American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program® distinguishes health care organizations that meet rigorous standards for nursing excellence.

“Earning Magnet recognition is a tremendous honor and reflects our commitment to delivering the highest quality of care to eastern North Carolina,” said Trish Baise, chief nursing executive, ECU Health. “Our repeated achievement of Magnet recognition is an incredible source of pride for our nurses and drives our entire nursing program to strive harder each day to meet the health care needs of the people we serve This prestigious designation is a testament to the dedication, professionalism and compassion of our outstanding nursing team in collaboration with our interprofessional partners across the health system.”

ECU Health nurses celebrate after learning they had achieved Magnet recertification.
ECU Health nurses celebrate after learning they had achieved Magnet recertification.

Research demonstrates that Magnet recognition provides specific benefits to health care organizations and their communities, such as:

  • Higher patient satisfaction with nurse communication, availability of help and receipt of discharge information.
  • Lower risk of 30-day mortality and lower failure to rescue rates.
  • Higher job satisfaction among nurses.
  • Lower nurse reports of intentions to leave their positions.

Magnet recognition is the gold standard for nursing excellence. To achieve initial Magnet recognition, organizations must pass a rigorous and lengthy process that demands widespread participation from leadership and staff. This process includes an electronic application, written patient care documentation, an on-site visit and a review by the Commission on Magnet Recognition.

Health care organizations must reapply for Magnet recognition every four years based on adherence to Magnet concepts and demonstrated improvements in patient care and quality. An organization reapplying for Magnet recognition must provide documented evidence to demonstrate how staff members sustained and improved Magnet concepts, performance and quality over the four-year period since the organization received its most recent recognition.

“ECU Health nurses carry forth a legacy of excellence, which was first recognized by the Magnet® Recognition Program in 2013,” said Brian Floyd, chief operating officer, ECU Health. “Since then, our nurses have continually raised the bar for patient care and inspire every member of our team to strive for excellence every day. This year’s Magnet recognition affirms our commitment to meeting our mission of improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina. We could not be more proud of the excellent nursing teams in collaboration with our interprofessional partners that made this recognition possible for the third time.”

Awards | Nursing | Press Releases

Dr. Teresa Anderson holds her ECU College of Nursing Hall of Fame Award inside her office.

Keeping patients safe while they receive high-quality compassionate care is at the heart of what ECU Health does for eastern North Carolina. This is especially important to Dr. Teresa Anderson, ECU Health’s senior vice president for Quality, who recently celebrated her induction into the East Carolina University (ECU) College of Nursing Hall of Fame.

She joins a number of colleagues, mentors, friends and former classmates in the Hall of Fame, which recognizes the accomplishments of ECU’s exemplary nursing graduates and faculty members.

When Dr. Anderson enrolled at ECU, nursing school was not the path she thought she’d take. She started out in education but after a semester of tutoring, she realized it was not her passion. She started on her nursing course work and never turned back.

“I always had a heart of service,” she said. “Then I got into nursing school and on we went. I actually started at [ECU Health] Medical Center in 1996 as a nursing assistant while I was in nursing school. I hit 28 years of service this May.”

Dr. Teresa Anderson holds her ECU College of Nursing Hall of Fame Award inside her office.
Dr. Teresa Anderson holds her plaque recognizing her induction into the ECU College of Nursing Hall of Fame inside her office.

Over those 28 years, Dr. Anderson has worn many different hats. From the nursing assistant role to a bedside nurse and working in various medical roles before taking on management and administration, she believes her varied experiences have helped her be successful in her current role in Quality.

Along with the variety of her work and the mentors she has learned from, Dr. Anderson said it’s the patients and ECU Health’s commitment to improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina that keeps her coming back each day.

“Our mission and the population that we serve are special and important to me,” Dr. Anderson said. “We serve a very complex population. I know that we’re doing so much good for our patients and our community, and there’s so much more we can do now alongside the Brody School of Medicine. There’s just going to be so much more that we can do with population health and making sure that people get all the services and access to care that they need.”

Dr. Anderson is a three-time ECU graduate with her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from the university. She’s also been recognized as a Great 100 nurse in 2016 and received a Leadership DAISY Award in February of 2021.

Dr. Amy Campbell, a quality nurse specialist at ECU Health and an ECU College of Nursing Hall of Fame inductee last year, submitted the nomination for Dr. Anderson to be admitted to the Hall of Fame. In the nomination, Campbell noted that Dr. Anderson is an outstanding role model and mentor who influences positive change while recognizing her team’s accomplishments.

“Over the years, she has served in many leadership and administrative roles that have led to improvements in patient outcomes. In addition, she has served on numerous community boards and enhanced the lives of Pitt County Residents,” Campbell wrote in her nomination. “On a personal note, Teresa has been a mentor to me personally and professionally over the last 14 years. She encouraged me to go back to school of my Ph.D. and was an active member of my dissertation committee. She has walked with me through tough times and give me priceless feedback to help me grow. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award.”

Dr. Anderson said she was humbled and grateful to have been nominated and accepted into the Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame members, new and former winners along with family and friends, attended a ceremony and had their nomination letters read before they were presented with a plaque to honor their induction.

Members of the Hall of Fame help fund a scholarship for the next generation of nurses and Dr. Anderson said this was one of the most special parts of the recognition for her.

“They showed a video from one of the recipients of the scholarship money at the event,” Dr. Anderson said. “She talked about how much it meant to her and it was very nice to know that the money collected goes to a great cause and to fund students in need. She talked about making ends meet and paying rent and all of her work in school. I remember those days, so it feels great to give back to future nurses.”


ECU Health Nursing

ECU College of Nursing Hall of Fame

2023 ECU Health Inductees

Awards | Featured | Nursing

Suzanne Foster speaks with a fellow nurse at ECU Health Medical Center.

To be a health care provider is to answer a calling. For some, the journey to health care is a straight line; for others, the road is winding. This series features stories from ECU Health team members who took the winding road, but found the destination to be worth the effort.

Virginia native Suzanne Foster moved to New Bern in 2007 because of her husband’s work; at the time, she served as an operations manager in sales and marketing for a small internet company. “We primarily did financing for military and government employees,” Foster said. When her father became terminally ill, she found herself as his primary caregiver when he transitioned to hospice.

“Taking care of him through hospice was very eye opening,” she said. “It made me realize that my job didn’t really matter. What mattered was taking care of him.”

It was then Foster realized she wanted to become a nurse. Her brother, who had just been accepted to medical school, also supported her shift in priorities. “He said, ‘This is what you need to do,’ and it turns out he was right.”

Suzanne attended Craven Community College, and now she’s been a nurse for nearly eight years. Recently, she found herself drawn to work as a travel nurse, which is what brought her to ECU Health*. “I wanted to try travel nursing and experience other facilities, but I have a husband and a son I dearly love and don’t want to be away from,” Foster said. That’s what made a travel position at ECU Health Medical Center a perfect fit, even if it was something she was initially apprehensive about.

“I had always been at one little hospital,” Foster said. “It was intimidating coming to a larger hospital like the medical center.” But one of Foster’s friends assured her she’d love it. “And she was right, the staff on the Medical ICU where I work is incredible.”

The Medical ICU was the right fit, Foster said, “because it’s kind of a hodgepodge or catch-all. You get to do the MacGyver stuff because we catch everything that requires intensive care and not just strokes or heart attacks.”

She also enjoyed that the medical center was a teaching hospital, something she had not previously experienced.

“Where I worked before, we had four or five regular intensivists, and I could pretty much anticipate a plan of care from that rotating group,” she explained. “Now I get to experience a teaching hospital, which has been eye opening. I get to take care of patients with residents – medical students – and it’s fun because they want to learn. The difference between working in a small hospital and a teaching hospital has taken a little adjustment, but it’s been a lot of fun and exciting.”

Foster had nothing but great things to say about her transition to nursing and her travel nursing experience at ECU Health.

“I absolutely recommend it,” she said. “Whenever friends say they’re really thinking about nursing, I tell them the medical center is a wonderful facility. You get to be at the bedside and have fun, and you work with awesome nurses with impressive skill sets.”

Ultimately, her transition to nursing has allowed her to do what she feels is important: take care of people.

*Suzanne Foster worked as a travel nurse at ECU Health Medical Center from October 24, 2022 to October 21, 2023.


The Eastern North Carolina Nurse Honor Guard team poses for a photo.

In July 2023, the Eastern North Carolina Nurses Honor Guard had the opportunity to participate in a living tribute for a fellow nurse, Janet Broady Farmer. The group of active and retired LPNs, RNs, FNPs and DNPs typically honors nurses throughout eastern North Carolina by attending their funerals or memorial services, but living tributes are a relatively new service that honors a nurse with a terminal illness or dementia. It allows the nurse to be present at his or her service, and it gives family members the opportunity to share and hear stories about their loved one.

“It is heart-touching for the family,” said Deborah Herring, a retired ECU Health nurse and honor guard member.

The national Nurses Honor Guard was initiated by the Kansas State Nurses Association in 2003. The Eastern North Carolina Nurse’s Honor Guard was established in 2017 by Tabatha Hall, assistant manager of nursing in labor resource management and its current president.

The Eastern North Carolina Nurse Honor Guard team poses for a photo.

It was the first honor guard established in North Carolina, but many chapters followed. There are now nine regional chapters and one state chapter, and the Eastern North Carolina chapter serves 24 counties in the state.

During the honor guard funeral services, four or five nurses stand guard wearing their traditional white uniforms with caps and navy blue capes. They perform a ceremony customized for the honoree, but which follows a typical format. First, the Nightingale Tribute is performed. At this time, the Nightingale lamp is lit. Then, the Florence Nightingale pledge is recited; this is the same pledge every nurse recites at his or her graduation.

“It means a lot to nurses because they remember when they recited that pledge,” said Herring.

A poem is then read in which the nurse’s name is used, followed by the nurse’s prayer. The ceremony ends with the nurse’s final call to duty, and the Nightingale lamp is extinguished. This service is offered to the family at no cost.

While she’s participated in several funeral services, Herring said last summer’s living tribute was a first.

“The family wanted a little party with refreshments for the service and a table decorated with awards Ms. Janet had won,” she said. “We did our service, and then the family shared their memories of her and invited her former nurse manager to speak about how dedicated of a nurse she had been.”

Herring said the value of this type of service is that the guard can connect more with the family, and the event is a celebration of that person’s life.

It was all the more meaningful, Herring said, because she knew the nurse being honored.

“It just happened that I used to work with Ms. Janet,” she explained. “And this was back a long time ago. I was an African American woman working as a nurse at the Medical Center and I felt like I had to prove myself.” Herring said Janet pulled her aside one day and said something she never forgot: “She said I was smart and didn’t have to prove that to anyone,” Herring recalled. “She inspired me so much, and during the tribute ceremony I told the family that she was the one who inspired me to become a leader. I later became an assistant head nurse at the Medical Center, I worked as the director of nursing at the Pitt County Health Department and I was on the North Carolina Board of Nursing.”

After the ceremony, the honor guard received a thank you letter from Janet’s daughter. In it, she said, “All of our family and friends were so touched by the heartfelt words and sentiment. Having my mother’s previous coworkers there to speak of her passion and worth ethic was so special. Forty years ago, her memory and personality were so vibrant and full of laughter . . . thank you for brining those memories of her back to the forefront.”

Herring said many people don’t realize the honor guard exists or what services they offer.

“We’re trying to make sure people are aware,” she said. “That’s a big challenge.”

The guard members attend nursing conferences and funeral home conventions, they make visits to regional skilled nursing and assisted living facilities and they are working to get their information published in the North Carolina Board of Nursing newsletters. On May 6, the guard will host a booth at the Nurse and Well-Being Fair from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Medical Center’s cafeteria, where more people can learn about the guard and its services. It’s important to honor nurses in this way, Herring said, the same as one in the military, police or fire department might be honored.

“It upholds the profession to know that the service rendered by a nurse is valuable,” she said. “It’s your health being protected by the nurse, and you want to honor them for that.”

Community | Nursing

To be a health care provider is to answer a calling. For some, the journey to health care is a straight line; for others, the road is winding. This series features stories from ECU Health team members who took the winding road, but found the destination to be worth the effort.

“Nursing was not my first plan.”

That may be a surprising admission from Trish Baise, Chief Nursing Executive at ECU Health, but she’s very clear that she did not initially intend to pursue a career in health care.

“From first grade on, I was going to go to law school and join the FBI,” Baise said, but those plans fell flat during her freshman year of college. “I got to college and felt overwhelmed my freshman year. I wasn’t excited about the classes I was taking.”

Like many students, Baise worked full time to put herself through college; during that time, she took a student job dispatching for the police department. She continued taking classes, despite not being sure how to proceed with her career.

“I still thought I might go to law school, but I wasn’t entirely sure,” Baise said. “I was just trying to get my undergraduate work completed.”

At that point, Baise said she ended up getting married and had her first child, still with no degree. “I was taking classes part time and working full time, this time dispatching for the fire department,” Baise said. To do that, she was required to get her Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) license, and that’s when the lightbulb went off.

“I realized I preferred being on the ambulance as opposed to dispatching,” Baise said. “I wanted to be in the action.”

Baise said what drew her to health care was the focus on team and purpose; it was clear to her the impact these providers had every day. “That’s when I found my calling, and it started me off in a completely different direction than I thought I was going to go,” she said. Baise then enrolled in nursing school to get her associate’s degree.

Despite the hard turn from law, Baise said her previous jobs and education have absolutely influenced her current work.

“My mind works in an investigative way, seeking the truth,” Baise explained. “A large part of my work, especially in leadership, but also as a clinician, is gathering data, finding facts, getting to the truth and identifying what information you need to make an informed decision and plan. The law and regulatory classes I took as a student — you have to have a broad understanding of these things in health care. They impact the decisions we make.”

Having that baseline knowledge helped Baise be successful as she transitioned from the bedside to leadership roles, even if being a nurse leader wasn’t her intention.

“I had a mentor who joked that some people walk forward through a door, but I’ve been backing in the door my whole career,” Baise laughed. “I always ended up migrating toward positions with leadership responsibility, even if I wasn’t actively seeking out those things. I just saw a gap and I had a skill set that would be helpful. I’ve always wanted to know where I can make the biggest impact, to lead and inspire teams and to transform.”

ECU Health Chief Nursing Executive Trish Baise poses for a photo outside of the ECU Health Administration Building.
ECU Health Chief Nursing Executive Trish Baise poses for a photo outside of the ECU Health Administration Building.

That keys in to Baise’s calling to “report to someone I’m ethically aligned with, build a great team and do great things together.” Leadership, she said, allows her to fulfill that personal mission in big ways.

Achieving her own goals has been made possible by working with ECU Health.

“I just celebrated my year anniversary,” Baise said. “ECU Health’s mission brought me here. I’m aligned ethically with the mission, and we have a huge runway in front of us to do great things together. There is no better space to do great things than here, where we can be creative and we have an academic medical center that can provide any procedure.” The availability of resources to support nurses and rural health care is another big draw for Baise: “We can put things in place to achieve our goal of being a national model for nursing excellence and rural medicine. As my career and my desire to impact nursing has grown, ECU Health has given me a chance to achieve those goals.”

To anyone considering a career in health care, Baise has some simple advice. “I’d say talk to people they know who work in health care. Shadow, volunteer and see what the day-to-day is for those roles.” Baise also noted that there are many options when it comes to working in health care. “It’s so broad that there are clinical options and operational. There’s something for everyone. The key is to find your passion and where your skills can be used best.”

As for Baise’s journey, she said it’s been pretty amazing. “From an EMT to a paramedic, to a nurse ranging from an associate’s degree to a doctorate, and now in a leadership role, I’ve loved every minute of it. It was not my original plan, but the non-plan plan has worked out pretty well.”


ECU Health Chief Nursing Executive Trish Baise speaks with new graduate nurses during a hiring event in Greenville.

As part of its commitment to growing a high-quality nursing workforce for the region, ECU Health recently held a New Graduate Nurse Hiring event to connect with upcoming nurses, many of whom will begin their career with the organization in a few months.

The two-day event was hosted at the TowneBank Tower and the Williams-Clark Club Level on East Carolina University’s campus.

The February hiring event featured 301 scheduled interviews with prospective nurses, many of whom are from right here in eastern North Carolina, allowing candidates to interview for various units and connect with nursing leaders within the organization. To date, 96 future nurses have accepted positions across the ECU Health system.

This event underscores ECU Health’s commitment to recruiting and retaining exceptional nurses as we continue to shape the future of rural health care.

ECU Health Chief Nursing Executive Trish Baise speaks with new graduate nurses during a hiring event in Greenville.
ECU Health Chief Nursing Executive Trish Baise speaks with new graduate nurses during a hiring event in Greenville.

“The New Graduate Nurse Hiring event was really a great turnout,” said Trish Baise, chief nursing executive, ECU Health. “The opportunity to connect with future nurses was priceless. It was beneficial to engage in a casual environment before interview day and it allowed our team to speak with them informally. Every year it gets better. New graduate nurses are an important part of our workforce pipeline. It’s important for us to make sure that those who have grown up in eastern North Carolina and/or have been educated here, have a wonderful clinical experience with us.”

The hiring event spanned two days, with Friday dedicated to networking and allowing candidates to interact with recruiters and nursing leaders from several ECU Health entities, and Saturday dedicated to interviews.

“The key message that resonated well with the nursing candidates was ECU Health is the land of opportunities,” said Dr. Kamilah Williams, administrator for Professional Practice Development & Clinical Education at ECU Health. “There are so many opportunities for launching nurses’ careers in every specialty of nursing practice across ECU Health.”

If you’re interested in reading about our new graduates and their experience at ECU Health, check out the People of ECU Health articles on Brianna Cavaliere and Samantha Nichols.

Community | Featured | Nursing

Lacey Boldyrev, a PICU nurse at Maynard Children's Hospital, stands on her unit.

To be a health care provider is to answer a calling. For some, the journey to health care is a straight line; for others, the road is winding. This series features stories from ECU Health team members who took the winding road, but found the destination to be worth the effort.

Lacey Boldyrev, staff nurse II in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), has worked for ECU Health since 2020. “I started in the middle of COVID,” she said. “My last semester of nursing school was entirely online and we weren’t even allowed to go into the hospital for clinicals, so it was a challenge.” Prior to attending Coastal Carolina Community College for her RN degree, Boldyrev was a stay-at-home mom while her daughters were young, and once they went to school, she pursued her dream of being a teacher.

“I started school but didn’t finish my degree,” Boldyrev said. “I was a substitute teacher and a paraprofessional in Brooklyn, where we lived, for seven years.”

At that time, she and her family moved to North Carolina where she worked in a preschool at Camp LeJeune until the birth of her son.

“He was born at Onslow Memorial Hospital,” Boldyrev said. “We had a normal pregnancy and ultrasounds, nothing special. But after he was born and I went to get him, they told me I couldn’t pick him up. They told me to return to my room and the doctor would see me.”

It was at that moment Boldyrev learned that her son had congenital heart disease and the hospital was sending him to Maynard Children’s Hospital at ECU Health Medical Center in Greenville. “I had never had a child with health issues before,” Boldyrev said. “All of the sudden we’re living in a hospital for a year and a half and taking medical flights to different states.” Her son died on Christmas Day, 2015.

“After he was gone, there was this big empty hole,” Boldyrev shared. “I didn’t know what to do with myself.” The time she spent with her son in the hospital, she said, inspired her to pursue a degree in nursing. “I had given him his medications and his oxygen and feeding tubes,” she said. “All these things I’d done for him, and I learned from the nurses taking care of him. I took that as a sign.”

Although she had never previously considered a career in health care, her work with children in education set a foundation for how to communicate with kids and their families in the hospital. “I understood from my work in the schools some of the challenges children face and how they develop,” Boldyrev said.

After graduation, Boldyrev knew she wanted to work at Maynard Children’s Hospital. “Everyone who was working there when my son was there treated me with such compassion and listened to me. The PICU was the only place I wanted to be; I’m not sure I’d be as happy if I was anywhere else.”

Part of what makes her work so special, Boldyrev said, is the PICU team. “The reason I came back to Greenville, and keep in mind I commute over an hour to get here, is my team,” she said. “The people I work with provide exceptional care. Not once since I started have I felt alone or that my team doesn’t have my back. There are other places I could work that are closer but that’s not what makes a good job. It’s the people and the pride you take from what you do.”

Boldyrev’s experience with her son has given her a unique perspective for the patients and families she serves in the PICU.

Lacey Boldyrev, a PICU nurse at Maynard Children's Hospital, stands on her unit.

“You don’t know anything about what it’s like if you’ve never had an unhealthy child. When my son was born, it opened a new world. I didn’t even know what congenital heart disease was, but now it’s unfathomable that I didn’t know,” she said. She recognizes that working in health care can be challenging, but it’s also the most rewarding thing she’s ever done. “If you’re passionate about medicine and helping people, but you’re hesitant to start the journey into health care, I say put your fears aside and take that first step.” Being able to provide compassion and support to children and families is something she’s very proud of, and she’s glad she took that first step. “I can be there for families going through the same type of situation I experienced,” Boldyrev said. “I feel like I’m able to make a difference in their lives. I believe there are reasons why we’re set on a path, and I take a lot of pride in saying that I’m a nurse.”

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Journey to Health Care

Children's | Featured | Nursing