The World Health Organization has designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife in commemoration of Florence Nightingale, and Connie Cooper, EdD, RN, CNE, couldn’t be happier.
“The Year of the Nurse is a very generous concept for all nurses globally because we put in a lot of hard work,” she said. “Whether you’re pursuing a PN, ADN, or BSN, it’s the hardest degree you’ll ever pursue. We face so many changes in healthcare across the country, and we’re ready to stand up and say, ‘Yeah, we deserve it!’ We’re here to ensure the health and safety of our patients.”
Dr. Cooper smiled as she recalled the days when nurses wore the classic white uniforms from head to toe.
“It was a privilege to wear the white uniform back then, and I still have my white cap from Illinois Wesleyan University,” she said. “It was a traditional shape with green and black stripes. The black signified being an RN, and the green indicated my school colors. Also, Florence Nightingale, my idol, wore white uniforms.”
The Illinois native has worked in mental health and as a nursing educator across her home state and Indiana, but she is happy to call Louisville her home. The wife of a college football coach, Dr. Cooper said her career often followed her husband’s tenures.
“When he finally retired and moved to Louisville, I asked him, ‘Can this be our final stomping grounds? I’m done with being a gypsy,’ ” she said, laughing.
Once she moved to Louisville, Dr. Cooper started teaching at a university and eventually learned about Galen College of Nursing from one of her doctoral students who worked at the College. She also was aware of some of Galen’s board members. The College’s mission and its dedication to preparing nursing students for healthcare careers were aligned with her own beliefs as an educator. She became the director of the ADN program and eventually was promoted to her current position as dean.
Cooper sees her role as “keeping an understanding of what our faculty, academic success liaisons, and clinical instructors at our Louisville and Hazard campuses are doing and how I can help them,” she said. “It’s kind of like being a nurse because you’re helping others find solutions to problems. We’re always working together, and I get excited to go to work every day.”