November 5, 2021, by School of Medicine

30 at 30: Joanne Cooper – A Clinical Career Journey

Joanne Cooper in her nurse's uniform smiling at the cameraAs an excited, and somewhat apprehensive nursing student, I started my training at Nottingham 27 years ago, a mother of 3 young sons and a member of what was locally (and maybe ironically) called the ‘mature student group’.  This was a supportive group of students also with caring responsibilities and a great example of widening participation to university.  Being Nottingham born and bred, the thought of entering the doors of Nottingham University was not something I had believed was available to me. My pride in beginning my journey as a nurse has only grown further since that time and represents the beginning of my passion for research and evidence-based practice as core business to the nursing profession. 

The powerful impact of great clinical care, embedded on person-centeredness, was something I experienced however before starting nurse training, built on a pivotal personal experience which inspired me to begin a career in healthcare.  At 14 years of age, I experienced the tragic loss of my mum Josie to breast cancer – she was only 37 years old. What I experienced was an unbreaking commitment to excellent care from our General Practitioner and community nursing team, combining a unique combination of compassion for us as a family and attempts to provide best palliative and end of life care at a time when current treatments and forms of family support were not as they are today. 

On qualification, I found my home in gastroenterology and hepatology care, gaining experience within medical, surgical, endoscopy and, latterly, as a clinical nurse specialist for people living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  What I didn’t know was that this was within an internationally renowned team for research and innovation – and one that embraced research development for nurses and the wider inter-professional team.  I didn’t even think I was ‘clever enough’ to do a PhD, but those alongside me supported me the whole way. Think that’s you? Then you can do it too. 

In 2006 I began an ESRC Funded +3 studentship exploring personal control and self-management in IBD. By 2009 I was looking for a role that combined clinical practice and an opportunity for post-doctoral research – what today we would describe as a ‘clinical academic career’ – and supported by programmes such as the NIHR.  Evident then, however, was an absence of such roles outside medicine. What has since followed for me is a career commitment to helping forge clinical academic opportunities for nurses and all those aspiring to this essential career for role development and the transformation of outcomes in practice that result. 

Joanne Cooper smiling at the cameraToday, in the 30-year anniversary of my home school of nursing, I am proud to be working with local, regional and national leaders in establishing a roadmap for embedding research as core business, including clinical academic roles. I am also delighted to be an Honorary Professor at the School of Health Sciences.  All my achievements are the joint result of partnerships with amazing colleagues, leaders, patient partners and wider team members.  I welcome all those who wish to join me to come along for the journey – it’s challenging, exciting and absolutely the right thing to do.  Let’s do a joint blog in, not another 30 years, but less than 10 years when we will look back and wonder ‘how it must have been’ when nurses weren’t routinely implementing, delivering and leading cutting-edge research in everyday practice. 

By Joanne Cooper, Honorary Professor at the School of Health Sciences

Posted in 30 Years of NursingAlumniNursing