Starting something new

imageI am starting a new job – there, I said it ‘out-loud’. I have been a bit worried about writing it down as I thought it might jeopardise it, as this is one move I really wanted to make, to do something where I hope I can make a difference. I also know I am nearing the last leg of my ‘formal’ career – I know I won’t stop doing ‘something’ but I suspect what that is might be very different 5 years from now.  I can also see that moving from a relatively high profile role to a local one might have its own teething pains too.  How can I change how I behave to reflect where I will live?

Most of the moves I have made in the last decade have been an evolution of where I was, a natural progression, easy in the simple growth of thinking and skills. This time it’s different. I’m moving to a community provider and trying to use all my new thinking and skills in a completely different way.

I am aware that in the last 5 years I have behaved as an instinctive manager and leader and perhaps have thrown in a little bit of organisational development as I have gone along. I have done OK, feedback has been generally positive, but I really want to develop more – that will require effort on my part.

ambitionSo I start my new role with some anxiety; I’m setting high standards for myself. I also know that, to do what I want to do I need to move into spaces that will be less than comfortable and may be lonely. I have written before about PWI (perceived weirdness index) and how being different can affect change; I also think that occupying a more neutral space allows others to lead, if you help to shed the light, rather than being the light.

So I have been thinking about my personal ambitions for the next couple of years and here are my first thoughts:

  • Organisations are complex and dynamic and are powered by humans – I will respect the unique nature of the organisation I work in and those people who make it the way it is;
  • I will endeavour to support others and create environments where people can give their best;
  • I will use my natural ability to see links and connections – I will support others through acting as a navigator rather than driver, shedding light on the paths available rather than choosing the path – ‘doing with’ not ‘doing to’;
  • I will work hard at developing others in the organisation and avoid dependency on me;
  • I will throw light on unmentionables and take difficult conversations out of the shadows by acting with honesty and integrity;
  • I will value conversation over process;
  • I will be opportunistic and work with the power of others to support change;
  • I will continuously reflect and learn;
  • I will draw others to the power of communities in action and in doing so support changes to practice;
  • I will operate from a position of expert rather than that of manager and in doing so act as a guide rather than through exercising managerial power;
  • I will respect partnerships with citizens/patients as a principle;
  • I will keep a relentless focus on citizens/patients/service users; the quality of what we do and how they experience it.

I think this is a challenging list. I will see how I go. You might too as I will blog about some of these things as I go along.

Is there anything I should have included on my list that I have missed?


Social media – connecting with purpose

I’m pretty much a Twitter addict; of late, however, it’s been feeling a bit less comfy, as if the life has gone out of it somehow.

But something interesting happened that has heartened me about the role of social media to do good. I’ve had the joy of watching Facebook possibly be the best that it can be.

Two things have made me think this:

Hebden Bridge floods

Photo by Steven Lilley – Flickr. Thanks!


On Boxing Day 2015 the Calder Valley, in the north of England, only a few miles upstream from the town where I live, experienced devastating floods for the second time in less than three years. Because my own town had some flooding, and I’m on some hyper local Facebook sites, I found myself on the Calder Valley Flood group. It made me cry; watching all the wonderful people of the beautiful area asking for help. But what I also witnessed was something truly remarkable: a powerful community in action. The whole community and beyond responded in ways I would never have predicted. People came offering whatever they could to help; labour, cleaning materials, food, hot drinks. Pretty soon after local tradespeople starting giving too. It didn’t seem to matter whether they too had had their homes or businesses devastated, everyone seemed to have something to give. The gift economy at its best.

If you want to see that community in action seek out the public site. It is still in place weeks after the events of Boxing Day and they continue to raise money and take positive steps to get those towns back on their feet.

The way the community of Calder Valley supported each other seemed to me to have the infrastructure of a strong social media network helping it to communicate and spread, although of course it was the community itself that did this. There were a very small team of community voluntary administrators on the Facebook site – I think they did an incredible job.

Flood signIt was lively, helpful and the presence of that small group of people felt like it was there 24/7.  Some corporate sites would do well to look at the standards they achieved.  It was never belittling or bemoaning; it was positive constructive and consistent. I applaud the skill and dedication of the small and beautifully formed team of dedicated people behind that Facebook site. They even coordinated wish lists on Amazon so people who lived some distances away could also help in a concrete, practical way. I was very impressed and in awe – that takes skill, time and just a dogged determination. When I talk to professionals about using social media they could do worse than to have a look at those sites. Of course there is some negative stuff but the site was run with such skill and community engagement that the positive drowned out the negative.

midlandThe second thing I watched was how Facebook connected a group of people from the past. Many years ago I worked for what was then the Midland Bank. A friend who I have known since school also worked there and he invited me to join a group called ‘Midland Bank Oldies’.   It was brilliant!  The site exploded into life – within a few days the membership of the group (a closed site) had expanded to more than 7000. Everyone was chatting away, reminiscing and reconnecting. It’s the liveliest and most positive site connection I have ever seen.

Then, one day it disappeared. I don’t know why but the person who had set the site up dismantled it. I suspect it might have been a bit overwhelming but rather than just opening it up and letting the community take its course, in the height of it all, it just wasn’t there.

These two experiences have made me reflect a lot about social media for purpose. Without a doubt people were key too. It doesn’t actually matter which platform you use but your purpose and whether you are prepared for what might happen do matter. You can’t predict how social media communities will go.

In a paper about networks in healthcare by the Health Foundation they recognise five areas that determine the success of a network and I think these two examples show how important these are:

  • common purpose
  • cooperative structure
  • critical mass
  • collective intelligence
  • community building

What they don’t identify is the hard work networks are to keep warm and alive and the personal commitment people need to give. For me my learning was; its about purpose but it’s also about the people.

If you would like to make a contribution to the Calderdale Floods appeal you can do so here – if you don’t know the Calder Valley it’s a very beautiful valley in West Yorkshire that also happens to be the location for the BBC  ‘Happy Valley’ mini series starring Sarah Lancashire – very much worth a watch :0)

Hebden bridge


Personal Review of 2015

2015 has been a strange year; at home my other half stopped working, probably for the last time (but never say never is our mantra), meaning that I am the only person at home working! We lost my beloved Henry, our old Ginger boy cat that we had nursed for 3 years through chronic renal failure. I moved back from my secondment at NHS England to the Health and Social Care Information Centre. Of course these are just some of the things that have happened!Anne Rob and SWC black and white

It’s been a strange year of transition and loss but in the tradition of looking back and forwards here are some jewelled highlights:


PDDigital unconference and awards

This was definitely a highlight of the year for me. Working with a great group of people, led by the inspirational and stellar Victoria Betton, we put on what felt like a very different type of conference. We were determined to do a different type of event, more open and inclusive, less talking from a mainstage and accessible for attendees from a cost perpective. Our collaborators, all worthy of mention (and some I am still slightly star stuck by) were Mark Brown (@markoneinfour), Michael Seres (@mjseres) Catherine Howe (@curiousc). I think we set out what we wanted to achieve, a new way of including people, not the big, glossy event but one that people enjoyed and felt able to participate in vs being talked at.

The output of the day is here and worth a review:

Fdigitalawards VB, RL, AClushed with the success of the conference we went on to host the unawards a few months later. Stressful and challenging we managed to deliver the events with no cost to anyone at the event but where there was much networking and meeting of minds, connections and chat. The innovations we unearthed are all pretty incredible and the award winner’s worthy.

You can see a summary of what happened here:


Back in the spring I blogged about having Diabetes and being menopausal.  It set off a chain of events that led to brilliant connections with a fantastic group of women.  This led to change day connections and some of these publications on Evidently Cochrane. These women are like a force of nature and I love them.  I know that we will all meet properly one day :) Thanks all of you: @drhannahshort @northnatasha @junegirvin @gussiegrips and especially @sarahchpaman30 who tirelessly pulled the blog together.  Its a shame we never made Woman’s Hour but there you go!

The Academy of Fabulous NHS Stuff

[Click the link and look it up if you don’t know it!!]

acad fab awardsOn a similar vein (I would like to think they adopted some of the things they saw at PDDAwards) attending the Academy of Fab NHS Stuff awards was pretty amazing and a highlight of the end of the year. I have never been to an event like this. It was really fabulous but was truly celebratory of many great NHS ideas and solutions. The awards were given based on public voting. I found myself sat on the same table as the fabulous 5 Boroughs Partnership street triage team who won the 5127 Award. If you haven’t read about the awards you should, they are quirky and fun. The 5127 award for example is to recognise:

Absolutely committed. Fiercely determined. Brim-full of self-belief. Refusing to compromise. Dedicated to perfection. The winner of the 5127 award will have demonstrated all of these attributes. 5127 refers to the number of prototypes that Sir James Dyson developed before finally marketing his first Dyson ‘Cyclone’ vacuum cleaner.’

A worthy winning team who were given a toy Dyson Vacuum cleaner as the award. It all made me smile a lot and again made me think about how we ‘do’ awards.  They are in the picture with me above.

Thank you Roy Lilley (@roylilley), Terri Porritt (@gbtpo) and John for not only showing us the way but also inviting me to be there to witness it.

On being a Fellow of the Queens Nursing Institute

qni awards

Professor Viv Bennett (CBE) and me at the awards

In October I received an email from the inspirational (do you see a pattern here – a few inspirational women have crossed my path this year) – Crystal Oldman, CEO at the QNI I was invited to become a Fellow at the QNI. It’s hard to explain why this meant so much to me but here goes:


Back in the olden days when I was a student nurse we did community placements and I remember wanting to be a community nurse. I can still remember nursing the lady in Scarborough, at home, with her family, in their tiny house, where I realised this was how it should be. I remember going to the house to turn her every day of my placement. I attended her funeral when she died.

Somehow life got in the way of this nursing being my destiny. I think then, as now quite often, community nursing was not seen as a career for an ambitious young nurse and I was definitely one of those. I don’t regret my subsequent choices – I enjoyed being an acute nurse – but I do wonder what could have been different.

Now in 2015/16, especially having visited Buurtzorg in the Netherlands too, I strongly believe that nursing needs to invest its efforts more in community nursing as the way forward. It should be seen (and I hope increasingly is) as a brilliant career choice where we can help to change lives for the better especially in older age.

I am very very proud to be a Fellow of the QNI and I hope to make myself as helpful to this relatively small charity who in my opinion bat well above their weight (in a really good way).

Working in social media

Facebook_BackyardFence_SoMeFilmStillEarlier in the year I was lucky to be able to work with the NHS IQ team to produce a short video about using social media. It was a personal challenge that had been set by Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) when I visited him in Plymouth the year before. Although Steve’s challenge was to do a series of interviews I decided that using another media for sharing was what I wanted to do and thanks to Helen Bevan (@helenbevan) this became a reality in 2015.

You can see the video here:

I was also very proud more recently to be ‘in-print’ with Alison Inglehearn (@mrsgracepoole) – she is another incredible lady. I wanted to publish something that went beyond the social media rah-rah and gave a more honest view of some of the risks of working here. Here is the result with grateful thanks to The Journal of Research in Nursing and in particular Elaine Maxwell (@maxwelle) for believing in us!

I also attended the Diabetes UK conference this year as a patient and spoke about using social media.   Speaking there has been an ambition of mine for a long while and it was great fun alongside Alex Silverstein (@alexYLDiabetes), Partha Kar (@Pathakar) Roz Davies (@rozdavies) and Laura Cleverly (@ninjabetic1) – you guys rock :0)

The prezi we used is here

I have continued blogging this year too with 17K views of my sporadic blog. I know that’s not many for some people but I still think it’s pretty awesome!

The arrival of #RoryCat


#Henrycat selfie

Losing Henry, the family cat was a blow, even though I had known he was unwell for such a long time but at the end of March it was time to let him go. He was a great friend and a brilliant member of our family. I didn’t think that the hole he left could be filled and in truth it can’t. But in September I decided that we were a family that should have a cat and as a result of contact with my fab vet we were linked to a local cat rescue, a small and amazing tiny charity who do great work especially with feral cats.




Rory has arrived and is a blessing. Zag is shortly to arrive too. We are #catstaff once again at the Coopers!


Looking forward

I’m planning some changes in 2016. I can’t yet say what they are as they feel fragile still but I’m getting more and more confident as the weeks go by. I’m aiming for radical change and trying hard to demonstrate that I do as I do, not just as I say.

Wishing you all a happy, health and successful 2016. My only resolution is to laugh and smile more – I wish that for you too.

Zag cat

Zag due to arrived the week commencing 4th January 2016

Understanding and forgiveness – I’m a failed befriender

It seemed the right thing to do; loneliness to me seems to be one of the most challenging things to face in older age in modern society and surely befriending could help? Two years ago in January I set out to try to offer something to help with loneliness somewhere. It took me ages to find a way of helping (blogs about that here and here) but earlier in 2015 I became a befriender for a small local charity.

I am no longer a befriender.

This feels like a confession but I equally feel compelled to write this down – It didn’t quite pan-out as I thought it would.

The charity, rightly, do loads of vetting before you can go one the list of befrienders. Interviews and CRB checks. We both went together, thinking that as a family unit we might be more helpful to someone. My husband is a great handyman and can be really helpful doing ‘jobs’. I am a consummate chatty coffee drinker and have loved working with older people all my nursing life. I know I’m friendly, chatty and kind.  What could go wrong?matching

It all started with the matching process really; for me it didn’t feel right at the start. The lady I went to see is lovely but I confess I didn’t feel the connection, somehow it didn’t feel right inside.  One of the primary reasons for ‘matching’ us is location, we live quite close to each other.  But even that didn’t feel like enough.

But that’s just me, right? Not trying hard enough?

I went every weekend for weeks and weeks. I learnt that she hadn’t asked for a befriender but her daughter, who lives 3 miles away, had done so. She has other family too who come fairly regularly, grandsons and their children. I got to know her and heard all about her family. But it still wasn’t right.

The task of visiting became more like a chore as the weeks went on. We did talk but there was no depth to our relationship.

She once said to me – ‘you don’t have to come you know!’ and I said to her ‘But I like to come’ – I lied.caring hands

From then onwards she seemed to think I was going for me, that it was me that needed her company. I continued to not to want to go but do so from a sense of duty and my natural optimism – ‘It will get better’ I used to tell myself.

But it didn’t and in the end I stopped going and I feel guilty.

What did I learn?

  • Relationships are organic and dynamic and sometimes two people may not connect.
  • Befriending is sophisticated and complex.
  • Just because you want to do good it doesn’t mean you can.
  • Kindness is a good start but it takes more to be a great befriender.
  • Lonely people and potential friends are tricky to match well.

I feel bad, I feel guilty but I have stepped away. I want to have a healthy befriending relationship not one where I don’t want to go and it feels like a duty and a chore.

I am rethinking my thoughts on loneliness and befriending. Perhaps in my naivety I was in fact patronising – of course I would be a great be-friender! Err, no Anne, it’s much more complicated than that.

So I continue to find ways I can help.  My next plan is to say hello to as many people as I pass in the street and smile more.  Being well-meaning isn’t enough – friendship is more than that.

Best friends at the seaside

Fun photos of friends at Scarborough beach

Information Governance Ironies

Going to the hospital always frustrates me but it is an opportunity to watch – people and processes, communication and clues on culture.

waiting chairsI’m actually writing this sat patiently in the waiting area – we have just been told the clinic is running more than an hour late. So I watch people come and people go.

Last time I was here I wrote a blog about information governance, about how, when you arrive in clinic, you have to declare all your personal details to the full waiting room. I did give them this feedback by the way and I also recognize the challenges in the clinic area. Today the same ritual continues.

[pause – I’ve been in to see the doctor who was lovely. But I’m back for another wait…. so I continue…..]

I am not sure that declaring your personal identifiable information in public is best IG culture.

notesThe next thing made me smile. A man with a big trolley arrives in the clinic. The trolley is piled with notes – over it is a sheet. He gallantly throws it back to reveal and remove a set of notes. Then back again when he is done. Either he is keeping the dust off or he is trying to protect them from view. I gaze on as people adjacent to him continue to declare their full name, address, date of birth and GP including the GPs address!

Meanwhile I overhear someone near me, after seeing the man with the notes tell a story: ‘eeee*’ says the lady to her (assumed) daughter: ‘you will never guess what they told me about my notes?’ The daughter asks for more information. She continues ‘they parceled mine up into a brown paper bag and sealed it with tape when I was going for my scan. I asked them why. They are MY notes after all. She told me they sealed them so I couldn’t open them as they could charge me £15 to look at my notes. This was to stop me looking at them!’

I listen and I watch and I despair.

Nothing really ever changes very much.


I’m being called again…..

*’eeeee’ is a Yorkshire expression that preceeds an interesting fact!

Practicing what I preach – role modelling and social media

This blog is a bit of an experiment :0)

lead by exampleDespite not really setting out with any grand intentions in mind, I was identified as a Social Pioneer by the Nursing Times in 2014, mainly for both my promotion of engagement with people with long-term conditions on Social Media but also for my work with professionals in encouraging and role modelling.

I believe that in a modern society nurses should be digitally competent and have a high level of digital professionalism in order to:

‘uphold the reputation of your profession at all times. You should display a personal commitment to the standards of practice and behaviour set out in the Code. You should be a model of integrity and leadership for others to aspire to. This should lead to trust and confidence in the profession from patients, people receiving care, other healthcare professionals and the public.’ (Extract from the Code, NMC 2015)

I try hard to do this at all times and aspire to role model digital behaviours. Here are some examples of how I try to do this:

  • I work hard at holding professional conversations at the same time as maintaining a balance of being human and authentic.
  • I try to help others if they seem to be struggling.
  • I add value through adding content and materials that further nursing.
  • I share my knowledge of social media and have worked with NHSIQ to produce a simple film for practitioners – see here.

As part of my nursing revalidation I need to collect feedback about my practice.

It would be really brilliant if you could leave a comment for me below that I can use to further reflect for my professional portfolio!

Constructive feedback from anyone is welcomed, not just other nurses. Feedback from patients and students is particularly welcomed.


Thank you so much xxx

Thank you so much xxx

Dear anniecoops

I had a complicated teenage years. At 14 nearly 15 I found myself looking after a house and Dad after our Mam had left; Dad was clueless, he didn’t even know how to write a cheque let alone look after all the household affairs. Mam had done it all. I picked up where she left off.Anne 1975

The foundations of our lives are laid down in our early years. As a result of these circumstances independence has always been really important to me. I left school at 16, having been one of the top stream at school, and started work in a bank. I was, of course, advised to go to University – nearly all my contemporaries did exactly that – but wanting to be able to look after myself was a key objective for me and financial independence a key driver.

It was 6 weeks into my first proper job that I started to feel unwell. There was a small supermarket next door to the bank and I was buying can after can of pop to drink – I felt so thirsty. As a result of my drinking I was constantly up going to the loo at night. Classic, had I known it, symptoms of type 1 Diabetes.

I think it must have been the tiredness that did for me and after a little while I decided I really didn’t feel right and went to see my GP. In those days he took a blood sample himself to send off to the lab.

Two days later I was out with my boyfriend – on the motorbike where we spent all our spare time – when the GP came knocking on the door to ask me to go to the hospital. He was non-too pleased when Dad told him I wasn’t at home and of course we had no mobile phones back then so I was summoned to North Ormesby Hospital early the next day. It was there, at 16, on my own, I was told I had Diabetes.

005The experience of being on an adult female medical ward at 16 was fundamental, I think, to my deciding to become a nurse. But this blog is more about what things I would tell myself, the things I have learnt about having Type 1 Diabetes in the 36 that have passed; things I couldn’t have known. They are not all things I have done wrong – some of them are a celebration of things I feel I have done right too.

You can do it yourself

For me taking control and being independent has been key to the way I have managed to live the last 36 years. There are only two times in the last 36 years that anyone else has given me my insulin injection – the first was the very first time when a nurse showed me how, the second was when I let my husband have one go to see if he could do it, ‘just in case’. Diabetes usually needs you to do exactly that – take control. I think I have done this well and I have refused to let Diabetes be the dominant part of my life.

I would say: ‘Don’t worry – you can do this yourself’

Finding Diabetes friends

I learnt this lesson much later in my Diabetes career but I wish I had known it sooner – knowing other people who have Type 1 has really been helpful in the last 5 years or so. I have found new friends on social media, people who inspire me, have helped me, make me laugh and I know I have helped some people too. I just wish someone had told me, encouraged me and helped me 36 years ago when I was 16. I really could have done with a mate!

I would say: ‘Go find people to connect with who have type 1 too, they will understand better than anyone else’.

Never stop learning

It took me a long time to realise that keeping up with what is happening in Diabetes care can be really powerful. For many years I took no interest. I let my (then) British Diabetic Association (BDA) membership lapse and just carried on in exactly the same way for many, many years. Diabetes is complicated and I wish I had carried on learning constantly throughout the last few decades.  I think this is partly about ignoring my Diabetes; I don’t mean not looking after myself, but only caring about knowing enough to live.

I would say: ‘Never stop trying to learn more about Diabetes, it will help you to both improve the quality of your self-care but also make sure you know when treatments have improved as no one will necessarily seek you out to tell you’.

Almost everything is possible but some things are a bit harder than others

ward sisterI have never let my Diabetes get in the way but it can be a bit of a challenge. I remember people doubting that having a baby would be OK but it was, I remember a school of nursing telling me that they didn’t take people with Type 1 Diabetes for nurse training but someone else did and I remember working night shifts and wondering if I would cope but I did. Sometimes things are a bit harder than others but I have never let my Diabetes stop me from doing things I really wanted to do.

I would say: ‘Almost everything is possible but you might have to plan a little bit more than other people, perhaps less spontaneous but doable nonetheless’.

Ignoring it won’t mean it goes away

Finally I would tell myself that trying to ignore Diabetes and pretend it isn’t there doesn’t mean it will go away. I learnt too late that testing blood glucose is a good thing to do and to do it for me not for the doctor. It’s better to know what’s happening and I care more about it than anyone else. But then it’s easier these days – 5 seconds was unimaginable back in the late 70’s, we were still testing urine in test tubes then. Technology has improved our ability to feel in control without it being the centre of our lives; for this I am grateful.

I would say: ‘Test more and learn about your body. Ignoring it and doing the minimum isn’t the answer but you can be in control of Diabetes without it being in control of your life.

Finally, AnnieCoops, love, laugh and hug more. Diabetes doesn’t stop you doing any of those things :0)IMG_3687