August 6, 2021, by School of Medicine

30 at 30: Karen Cox reflecting on 30 years of Nursing

It is 30 years ago this month that I graduated from King’s College London with my degree in hand along with my RGN qualification. In my very early twenties, full of passion for Nursing, I was burning to make a difference and excited about the possibilities that lay ahead. Since then I specialised in cancer and palliative care and community nursing, worked clinically in a number of staff nurse posts and was fortunate enough to join the University of Nottingham and the Department of Nursing Studies on a joint appointment with Nottingham Community NHS Trust as a District Nurse in the mid-nineties. Subsequently, I undertook my PhD at Nottingham, became a lecturer, senior lecturer and professor of cancer and palliative care in the School of Nursing and served for five years as the Head of School. Later I served as a Pro Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor on the senior leadership team of the University. I was able to develop at Nottingham and had a great platform on which to build my subsequent career. 

The last 30 years have flown by and I have been privileged to have had a fulfilling career and worked with some wonderful colleagues. While I may be a bit older now, I still have the passion and the belief in Nursing I had all those years ago and remain excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. Fitting then, that for the 30 year celebration of Nursing at Nottingham, I get to write this blog and I want to use it to reflect on the opportunities that a career in Nursing can bring and say ‘thank you’ to those who have helped me along the way. 

The profession of Nursing has given me so much. A challenging and stimulating education, a degree, a professional qualification, a career that has spanned clinical work, research, teaching, management and leadership, international travel, visiting universities and health services in Asia, Europe and the US and, over the last 9 months, the opportunity to serve as acting Chair of our Regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Observing and understanding how education of the health care workforce and the delivery of health care services shape and reflect society, and the opportunity to meet and work with nurses and health care professionals across the world, has been inspirational. 

I believe passionately that Nursing is one of the best careers out there! Nurses have a fantastic knowledge base, they draw on a range of disciplines to shape their understanding of individuals, families and society – physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, psychology, sociology, ethics, law – and apply this knowledge and understanding in many situations and settings to deliver safe, effective and informed health and nursing care. Nurses make a difference every day to people’s lives. Our education and professional qualifications mean we can travel the world and work anywhere – we can deliver care, lead teams and services, undertake research and shape education programmes and are part of an amazing global network of colleagues who are working with and caring for people at some of the most vulnerable, as well as the most joyous, times in their lives. 

The last 18 months, as the world has been responding to the impact of COVID-19, has also demonstrated the importance of nursing and nurses as never before in being able to respond effectively to a major public health challenge. The importance of our profession in keeping people safe and ensuring effective health care delivery has become increasingly recognised and we need to make sure we continue to promote the need for well-educated, supported and rewarded nurses and health care professionals who serve society in this way. 

So I want to use this blog to say ‘thank you’ for the opportunities I have been given access to through the profession of nursing and, of course, to the University of Nottingham where I have spent much of my career and have had the privilege to work with brilliant colleagues and students.  For all the challenges the nursing profession faces, it remains extraordinary and inspiring and is a profession of which I am intensely proud and remain passionate about to this day. I am also proud that Nottingham has been contributing to it for 30 years: happy anniversary and many returns!   

By Karen Cox, Registered Nurse, Professor and Vice Chancellor (University of Kent) 

Posted in 30 Years of NursingNursing