July 14, 2023

Get to know: Michael Cooney


Meet Michael Cooney, Nurse Practitioner, Oncology/Haematology.

Q: Tell us about your journey with Northern Health?

A: I have been caring for people affected by cancer, in a range of nursing roles, for around 35 years. For the last 11 years, I have been here at Northern Health. During that time, I have seen so many things change about Northern Health but have also noted how many things have stayed the same. I began my journey with Northern Health whilst I was employed at Peter Mac – assisting Maree Glynn and Lucia Bento with the development of the Oncology Nurse Practitioner (NP) Model of Care, as I was trying to develop a similar role for Peter Mac at the time. This was my first exposure to the personal dedication and commitment that people at Northern Health seem to have towards providing the best possible care to cancer patients, that I have since experienced at Northern.

I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the new Oncology NP Candidate and began working with what was a relatively young cancer service – both in how long the service had been running and the ages of the staff that made it up – the NP candidate was (and still is) older than almost all the consultant medical staff and certainly older than the registrars and residents. This made for some awkwardly funny times on morning rounds, where the patient would assume the older man in the suit (I tended to overdress in those days) was clearly the consultant – and so addressed all their attention, comments and questions to me, virtually ignoring the skilled and more qualified medical practitioner standing beside them.

Being here at Northern Health has provided me with the opportunity to participate in the development of  some fantastic patient care initiatives: exercise physiology referral and exercise groups for patients having chemotherapy, nurse-led care for patients commencing treatment for myeloma, establishing the cancer care coordinator role, setting up of one of the best Symptom Urgent Review Clinics (SURC) in Victoria and currently, a project to establish a nurse-led supportive care service for patients receiving oral cancer therapies.

I am now working fewer hours – trying to begin the difficult process of establishing a better work-life balance. I have found it to be mixed in its blessings. I now have the opportunity to do a little volunteering work that I’ve always wanted to do and have time to go camping or cycling or paddling, all of which I love to do. It means though, that I have given up spending time doing work I love with people I think are amazing at what they do and believe in giving the best they can to the people they care for – that’s hard to give away.

Q: What motivates you in your current role? 

A: I think a couple of things motivate me in my work. I believe in my work. It means something to me to be good at it. Being good at my work means that I can make a real difference to the experience of a person with cancer who is being cared for here at Northern Health. I love what I do.

The second thing that motivates me is the people I work with. Since I started working at Northern in 2011, I have described my experience of my work as “Christmas every day”. That is not as Pollyanna as it sounds. Through my more than 30 years of working in public, private, inpatient and outpatient care settings, I have worked with smart people and caring people in organisations with famous reputations. Of course, I have had difficult times and there has been instability in the organisation – the horror of working through the pandemic, getting tired and frustrated – but at Northern Health, I have always felt the support of the kind, clever, dedicated and remarkable professionals I get to work with. I have worked in places where I know the patient and their family are well cared for, but Northern Health is the place where I have most felt that patients are also likely to feel that they are also cared about.

Q: Tell us something about you not many people know?

A: I am the middle child of nine – four above and four below, with a traditional Catholic upbringing. I turned out to be a nurse – “quell surprise!” My late father raised us in the idea that each person has a reason for being and something to contribute and it is their responsibility to make that contribution wherever they can. So as an homage to my dad, who was also a great dad-joker, I have a dolphin-like tattoo on my leg so that wherever I go, I will always know I have a porpoise!

Q: Favourite vacation destination? 

A: The place I haven’t been yet.

Q: Ice cream or cake?

A: Por que no los dos. But if I had to choose, my wife makes amazing cakes!