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Banner nurse practitioner reflects on her journey to becoming Mrs. Arizona American

“I felt like a real-life Ms. Congeniality” - Jackie Cook, Banner Health nurse practitioner

PHOENIX (April 29, 2024) - It’s been about four years since Arizona saw a steep increase in COVID cases, and Banner Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner Jackie Cook is reflecting on how the uncertainty of the virus propelled her to step outside her comfort zone to compete in, and eventually win Mrs. Arizona American 2021. 

Back in 2020, Cook was working as a registered nurse at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center when cases of COVID started to appear and then spiked Phoenix – that’s when her path was forever changed.  

“I will never forget the very first day that we converted to the COVID unit. I remember the chaos, fear and anxiety in the early days of the unknown,” Cook recalls. 

She remembers leaning on a friend during the uncertainty, who took a great interest in understanding COVID through the eyes of a nurse.

“[My friend] told me that I had been through so many devastating and yet some incredible experiences and that I would make a great pageant queen,” Cook remembers. “Jokingly, I waved my best pageant wave said ‘yeah, Mrs. America here I come.’” 

However, as she thought about it, it became less of a joke and more of a reality as Cook felt this incredible tug in her heart to pursue this path. She eventually did.  

“The only thing I had to lose was fear and a couple of extra pounds of weight gained from COVID,” Cook explains. “I thought if it went well, I would be able to dedicate my platform as an advocate for nurses to highlight the efforts being made by true heroes', the nurses and healthcare workers in the trenches of COVID.” 

With that, she applied to Mrs. America pageant, trained vigorously for nine months – between taking care of patients as a full-time nurse and her two small children. She exercised, changed her diet, read dozens of books, practiced interview questions, and nailed the pageant walk and even the pageant wave. 

“I felt like a real-life Ms. Congeniality,” Cook said.  

Then, tragedy struck. Cook lost her father in the middle of it all. Overwhelmed with heartache and grief, she felt she couldn’t continue with the competition. 

“I did not believe I could continue to compete, or if being Mrs. Arizona even mattered,” Cook said. “But my pageant coach stepped in and told me that it mattered more than ever, that I belonged on the Mrs. America stage. So, I kept going.”  

Her pageant coach’s advice was right. Cook competed for Mrs. Arizona and in August 2020, she won. In 2021, this Banner Health nurse was crowned Mrs. Arizona American 2021, having no previous pageant experience.  

Throughout the process, Cook explains she learned how to find balance in the day-to-day so that she is fully present for every patient that walks through the door of the urgent care. She also gives back to students as an adjunct professor with Grand Canyon State University’s nursing program and is writing a book to honor and share what she’s experienced. 

“If [the Mrs. Arizona experience] taught me anything, it has taught me to take care of myself and to know when and how to speak up,” Cook said. “I share my Mrs. Arizona story with my patients to encourage them to take care of themselves, and that they’re never too old or too lost to change their lifestyle and set goals.”  

Banner Urgent Care provides a close, convenient and affordable treatment option for patients with non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries; cold and flu; ear, eye and throat infections; fevers; skin rashes; and sprains, strains and lacerations. Banner Urgent Care is open every day of the year and accepts most insurance plans. For more information, locations and hours of operation, please visit

Awards Banner Health Banner Urgent Care Banner Thunderbird Medical Center COVID-19 Awareness Health Nursing

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