For the first time, the Dame Quentin Bryce Postgraduate Palliative Care Nursing Scholarship has been awarded to two worthy recipients – palliative care nurses, Madeline Lam and Shaoyun Guan.
Now in its third year, the scholarship is a fitting recognition of the exceptional work of St Vincent’s nurses and of St Vincent’s commitment to palliative care.
Jade Murphy, General Manager of St Vincent’s Education and Learning, shared that this year saw a record number of staff undertake palliative care studies and apply for the scholarship opportunity. “This is a remarkable result and no doubt partly attributed to the availability of this now renowned scholarship.”
Photo: L to R: 2023 Dame Quentin Bryce Postgraduate Palliative Care Nursing Scholarship recipients Madeline Lam and Shaoyun Guan.
Supporting the evolution of palliative care
The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, former Governor-General, has a generous and passionate interest in nursing. She has been a powerful advocate for palliative care, championing the importance of access to inclusive, high-quality services across our nation.
Dame Quentin said, “I’m pleased to support nurses to develop their expertise. It takes a special kind of person to choose palliative care nursing. Please join me in congratulating our two impressive recipients, Madeline and Shaoyun.
“The scholarship is a significant initiative that gives nurses who have chosen this noble path the opportunity to fine tune their skills. By advancing their studies, they will both be better equipped to provide care focused on improving and sustaining the quality of life for patients and their loved ones.”
Madeline’s original career path was worlds away from nursing. After becoming an Australian Air Force cadet in high school, she dreamed of becoming a pilot. “In cadets, I learnt outdoor survival skills and how to fly a plane. It was an incredible experience. I thought about joining the Air Force, but my family weren’t keen.”
Since becoming a nurse, Madeline has dedicated her entire career to palliative care. She was inspired to follow this path because of the care her grandmother received during her end-of-life journey.
“I’ve always felt privileged to be able to support families during challenging times. By focusing on the patient and their immediate needs, you can change the way someone remembers that key moment in time.”
Madeline recalls a simple act of kindness that had a surprising effect on a patient’s sister. “One of my patients was extremely close to his sister, she stayed with him day and night. The night before he died, I urged her to go home to get a decent night’s sleep. The following night, I organised a bed so she could lie next to her brother and be with him when he passed. I didn’t think I did anything particularly special, but she was so appreciative. It made me realise small actions can have a big impact.”
Madeline said receiving the scholarship was a surprise. “For me, it reaffirms that I’m here for the right reasons.”
She intends to use the scholarship to complete her postgraduate studies. Beyond that, Madeline’s goal is to eventually undertake a PhD, focussing on cultural sensitivity and end-of-life conversations, especially in culturally diverse communities where conversations about death are often uncomfortable or taboo.
“I want to thank St Vincent’s Foundation and Dame Quentin Bryce for the opportunity and the encouragement. I hope I can do more for the palliative care community in the future.”
Shaoyun (Shao) Guan
Shao spent the first six years of her nursing career searching for her speciality before discovering and quickly developing a deep passion for palliative care.
Shao describes her work in palliative care as her purpose.
“I feel a sense of meaning and joy when I work with patients. We are blessed to be able to provide hope and comfort during their most vulnerable time. That’s how I found my own purpose in life. My patients inspire me. They remind me to cherish every moment, to not put things off but to live every day to the fullest."
That is why, in her spare time, Shao focuses on her great passion, ballroom dancing. “Ballroom dancing is my outlet, it’s a way to connect with my emotions and my creativity.”
Shao recently took on the education role at Caritas Christi to train staff in the specialty of palliative care. “I love educating. It’s rewarding working with novice nurses, helping to shape the future workforce in palliative care. I’m particularly focused on making learning more accessible and flexible.”
Founded in 1938 by the Sisters of Charity, Caritas Christi was the first inpatient care facility established in Victoria and is recognised today as the largest provider of palliative and supportive care in the state. It is also recognised nationally as a centre of excellence.
“The team at Caritas is the best team I’ve ever worked with. Everyone is so supportive, positive and compassionate. They’re all really special people. I’m proud to be part of the team.
“Thanks to the scholarship, I can undertake further studies to advance my knowledge in palliative care. I’m excited to share my learnings with nurses new to palliative care to help them advance their careers.”
Sponsored by St Vincent’s Foundation Victoria, the Dame Quentin Bryce Postgraduate Palliative Care Scholarship, valued at $10,000, is for a palliative care nurse working at St Vincent’s, who is undertaking either a Postgraduate Graduate Certificate/Diploma or Masters in Palliative Care.
Click here to donate to the St Vincent's Nursing Scholarship Fund.