Catherine Cropley graduated in 1960 from the University of Washington, in Seattle with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The same year the University of Washington hospital opened. She joined the labor and delivery nursing staff and quickly progressed to Head nurse of the Newborn Nursery. When Dr.Tim Oliver, a pioneer in Neonatology, joined the hospital staff in 1962 to develop the NICU, Cathy was selected to be the units HN, a position she held for 9 years. She worked closely with Dr. Oliver to setup the NICU and to incorporate changes in care on an ongoing basis as research in Neonatology progressed.
A fascinating sidelight to her career occurred in 1968 when the first orangutan twins born in captivity were born at the Seattle zoo. Being premature and discordant twins, the zoo enlisted the U of W NICU to provide nursing care for their first week. Cathy made plans for staffing and equipment, and joined in hands on care.
Cathy relocated to Los Angeles In 1971 to take the position of neonatal nurse educator at the new hospital, Martin Luther King, Jr. General Hospital in South Central Los Angeles. In 1974 she completed a Master of Nursing degree from UCLA and subsequently assumed the position of Head Nurse/Clinical Nurse Specialist at Children’s hospital in Los Angeles.
Two years later when Dr. Ronald Bloom received a NIH grant at the Charles Drew Medical School in Los Angeles, to develop a series of modules for training neonatal nurses working in referring hospitals, Cathy joined him and his team of educators. The program consisting of 36 modules became known as the Neonatal Educational Program (NEP). Six of the modules related to resuscitation and in 1987 they became the first edition of the AAP/AHA Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP). She was an active member of the NRP steering committee for 8 years, and participated in training instructors in the US, Canada, Poland and Romania.