Palliative Care Nursing Research Fund Recipient

25 Jan 2023

The inaugural Dame Quentin Bryce Palliative Care Nursing Research Fund Scholarship, in conjunction with the Centre for Palliative Care, has been awarded to St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne’s Senior Research Officer, Alysia Coventry. The grant of $30,000 will support Alysia to complete her PhD, in which she seeks to improve the care and support families receive when a patient is dying in intensive care unit (ICU), to foster their psychological wellbeing during bereavement.

Alysia spent 20 years working as a nurse in the ICU. She thrived on the day-to-day challenges of this complex specialty area. “I felt privileged to support families at such a significant time in their life, particularly during end-of-life care. That’s where my interest in the topic of end-of-life care started.”

During her time as an ICU nurse, Alysia kept up her studies, eventually becoming a clinical nurse specialist. Her passion for education and her enquiring mind eventually compelled her to incorporate research into her skillset.

“I’ve always loved education but I never wanted to be a manager. That’s why I moved towards the university sector. I continued working as a critical care nurse and studying for a long time. It was struggle, but I still wanted to work in a clinical setting. It was a difficult decision to move away from my clinical role. I do still work as a recovery nurse to stay connected to patients, but only on a very casual basis. That’s why receiving this incredibly generous scholarship of $30,000 has meant so much to me. It will mean I can continue as a full-time student and finish my PhD,” Alysia said.

Around 10 to 20 percent of people in Australia die in the ICU. Alysia said, “Losing a loved one is never easy. There is a higher risk of families experiencing the shock and trauma of an unexpected death in the ICU. As a consequence, evidence shows that families of patients who die in the ICU endure a long-term emotional burden of prolonged grief, depression and post-traumatic stress.”

After witnessing the impact of families experiencing grief first-hand, Alysia was inspired to focus her PhD research on this area. She has many patient stories to draw upon from her decades as an ICU nurse. Alysia recalls one patient who made a lasting impact impression. “I was caring for an elderly patient who had an extremely close relationship with his wife. They had been married for many years and were clearly still very much in love. He was in the ICU for a long time but we eventually got him through, which was amazing! Then, just a few months later, he had a car accident. He didn’t make it. His wife lost him after all of that, it was heartbreaking.”

Alysia’s research aims to improve the quality of palliative and end-of-life care in the ICU by developing recommendations and strategies to support families to improve the delivery of care. As well as identifying the challenges and barriers that are currently in place.

“Communication and the delivery of information is core to everything in healthcare. It needs to be timely, honest, compassionate and delivered in a way that can be understood. Acknowledging that every family has different needs and recognising their cultural requirements is also important. There can’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to this care,” Alysia explained.

The goal of Alysia’s research is to develop a model of care that is more family-centred and can be applied in ICUs across Australia.

“I feel really privileged to receive this scholarship. It’s an honour to have my name associated with Dame Quentin Bryce who is a renowned advocate for the improvement of aged and palliative care in Australia. It is inspiring to know that a scholarship like this is available for nurses to achieve this level of research and change,” Alysia said.

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The Centre for Palliative Care has a state, national and international focus, with the aim to improve access to quality palliative healthcare through research, education, and training. The Centre was established as a department of St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne as well as a Collaborative Centre of the University of Melbourne. An integral part of the St Vincent’s Health Australia network, this collaboration aims to increase the quality of palliative care provided to the community via extensive psychological research, clinical trials, and education for health professionals.


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