Cooper’s journey from patient to paediatric nursing training

Cooper’s journey from patient to paediatric nursing training

Cooper on stage speaking at an International Women's Day event

Hospital wasn’t just a place for medical care during Cooper’s childhood—it felt like a second home. It’s where she developed a passion for health advocacy that would later influence her career. 

Soon after she was born, Cooper was diagnosed with VACTERL, a chronic condition involving several congenital abnormalities and throughout her childhood, she was a frequent visitor to Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick (SCH).  

Cooper underwent 31 major surgeries as a patient at SCH, as well as countless medical procedures and admissions, and remembers several birthdays and Christmas days spent in hospital.  

While spending extended time in hospital is difficult for any child, Cooper says that many of her favourite childhood memories are attached to her time at SCH.  

“From Clown Doctors distracting me before a procedure, to playing in the Starlight Room, and the smiling faces that greeted me at Sunny’s Café, there are so many small encounters that positively impacted my time in hospital as a child,” Cooper said.  

“I distinctly remember how lovely every one of my nurses was, and how memorable they made my hospital experience. I always felt celebrated and loved and that’s shaped my desire to give back." 

Touched by the compassion of those who cared for her and driven by a desire to make a difference to others, Cooper’s personal experiences led her to pursue a career in nursing after completing high school.

Cooper smiling


Now a third-year nursing student at The University of Notre Dame, Cooper hopes her career will enable her to not only use her voice to advocate, but also to tangibly impact others’ lives through hands-on care at the bedside. 

Through her own lived experience, she also recognises the importance of visibility and representation in healthcare and hopes to empower other children in hospital who may be impacted by chronic illness and or/disability.  

“My personal journey has been a driving force behind my passion for paediatric care. For me, it’s not only about ensuring that everyone has equal and proper access to healthcare, but also that children can see someone else with lived experience and realise that life doesn’t end with diagnosis.  

“Lived experience is an amazing thing to share and the ability to empathise is such a valuable skill. I think it’s really important for children to be able to visualise where they could go in the future through visible representation of chronic illness and disability in the hospital.” 

While still completing her nursing degree, Cooper’s impact is already felt through her advocacy work with Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN)’s Chronic Illness Peer Support (ChIPS) and Youth Council services, promoting positive change within health services to ensure young people receive the best care possible, and connecting them with a strong support network.  

Cooper was a founding member of Youth Council and is still an active member of the ChIPS Reference Committee (Refcom), which organises activities for peers and provides a meaningful space for young people with chronic illness and/or disability to make friends and build connections with others.  

Cooper during a nursing placement


She has advocated for more accessible and inclusive spaces for young people, for health care services to be designed for young people, and for a smoother transfer service from paediatric to adult health services. Cooper also co-led a project aiming to connect the siblings of young people with health needs and young carers to services supporting their wellbeing. 

With the 2024 theme for NSW Youth Week, ‘Express. Empower. Get Loud.’, stories like Cooper’s are a powerful testament to the impactful advocacy efforts of young people, for young people.  

“I’m proud to have played a part in services like ChIPS and Youth Council, which offer both a platform and safe space for young people with lived experience to showcase their talents, advocate for themselves and others, amplify their voices, and come together year-round.” 


Supporting young people as partners in their own care as they navigate their transition from paediatric to adult health care services, Youth & Transition are a team of medical, nursing and allied health staff. The Youth & Transition team help young people to develop skills to manage their chronic health conditions and/or disability, navigate their transition from paediatric to adult health care services, and empower them to take charge of their health.