Joan Woodcock was born and brought up in Blackburn, Lancashire, to hard-pressed working class parents. Hospitalisation at the young age of four inspired her to become a nurse, and at 16 she started as a cadet nurse, before beginning formal nurse training two years later under the traditional matron system. Despite the strict discipline and harsh training regime, Joan qualified as a State Registered Nurse in 1971. Her career spanned 41 years, and included positions in hospital casualty departments, GP practices, the prison service, Marie Curie cancer care homes and in the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Centre for Lancashire Police - as well as a brief moment of fame on national TV. Joan took early retirement in 2008 to spend more time with her family and her beloved pet spaniel Gino.