Family Medicine & Primary Care | Featured | Nursing

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.”