Meet the 2021 Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Nursing Development Scholarship recipient

Congratulations to Jenny O’Neill, 2021 recipient of the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Nursing Development Scholarship (DEMNDS). Jenny is a multidisciplinary and highly skilled Nurse Consultant in the Nurse Research Department and has been caring for sick children at the RCH since 2000.

With the support of the DEMNDS, Jenny will develop her leadership in clinical ethics and pilot a program that aims to empower nurses across the hospital through education in clinical ethics. Working in conjunction with the RCH Children’s Bioethics Centre (CBC) which provides support and advice to RCH staff for complex decision-making, Jenny aims to increase nurse participation in this process.

“Nurses face ethical dilemmas on a daily basis, with questions on the autonomy of children with disabilities, end of life care, families refusing medical advice and holding children for procedures.”

​“Nurses have a really unique position at the patients’ bedside in terms of advocating for the family and I want to optimise the nursing voice in difficult positions and discussions,” said Jenny.

Part of the scholarship will fund Jenny’s Masters studies in Bioethics, while the remainder will be used to set up the Clinical Ethics Nurse Liaison Pilot Program. Jenny was able to respond to the challenges of COVID-19 by adapting her scholarship project. Instead of international travel to learn from global leaders in nursing ethics, Jenny will be connecting online with children’s hospitals in the United States of America to learn from global leaders in nursing ethics. She will draw on their resources to develop the tailored program for RCH nurses, which will be the first of its kind in Australia. Jenny’s aim is that after the scholarship year, the program will become self-sustainable and run annually.

By educating nurses on the best way to work through difficult decisions, the program will not only help individual nurses, but the hospital as a whole. With her own further study on clinical ethics, Jenny hopes she can continue to work closely with CBC and aims to be a nursing leadership voice in clinical ethics.

“I’ve been at the RCH for quite a long time and I’ve watched a number of projects arise from the support of the RCH Foundation and the Auxiliaries. This scholarship is such a unique opportunity for nurses and I am so grateful for the support that the RCH Auxiliaries have given me,” said Jenny.

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