Meet the 2023 Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Nursing Development Scholarship recipient

Congratulations to Kelly Light, the 2023 recipient of the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Nursing Development Scholarship.

Kelly is a Clinical Nurse Educator at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH). She began working at the RCH in 2007. In 2011, she joined the RCH@Home team, now the Wallaby ward and Complex Care Hub. Kelly’s experience in community care encompasses nursing patients in their communities, coordinating state-wide paediatric services and facilitating clinical education for on-road staff.

In 2021, Kelly took on a new role – becoming the RCH’s first Ambulatory Clinical Nurse Educator. Within this role, she draws upon her RCH community nursing expertise to support nursing education and development in the Wallaby ward, Complex Care Hub, Day Medical Unit, Day Cancer Centre and Specialist Clinics.

Kelly is passionate about ensuring that nurses at the RCH, and elsewhere, implement best practices when delivering clinical care to patients and families regardless of the patient’s background.  To help promote further equity in clinical care delivery, Kelly will use the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Nursing Development Scholarship to develop a trauma-informed care implementation plan specifically focusing on Ambulatory Care settings.

Trauma informed care recognises that a patient’s previous difficulties or adversities in life can impact on their mental health or cause other underlying issues resulting in ‘trauma’.

“The word trauma in healthcare is most often associated with terrible physical injuries and life-or-death situations. However, in the context of trauma-informed care, the term ‘trauma’ means understanding that our patients and families have unique lived experiences, not only in terms of their health or abilities – but regarding adversities they have faced,” said Kelly.

“It also means understanding that experiencing adversity impacts a child and family’s responses to stressful situations; acknowledging that illness, clinical procedures, pain, and many other stressors experienced as a patient can trigger underlying trauma responses or create new trauma.

“Trauma-informed care shifts the staff focus from “what’s wrong with you?” to “what happened to you?”, improving patient engagement, trust, empowerment and ultimately health outcomes. The first step is understanding, and the next is recognising and responding,” Kelly added.

Kelly’s work will focus on Ambulatory services, where staff are regular fixtures in patients’ lives and homes, so are pivotally placed to recognise and respond to signs of trauma. Through the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Nursing Development Scholarship, Kelly will benchmark trauma-informed care implementation approaches by working with local and international trauma-informed care experts. She will visit the Queensland Children’s Hospital, spending time with experts working clinically and academically in paediatric trauma-informed care, before travelling to the Izaak Walton Killam (IWK) Hospital for Children in Canada.

“IWK Hospital for Children is really ahead of the game when it comes to trauma-informed care and is now expanding its framework for community stakeholders,” she explained.

After visiting IWK, Kelly will facilitate research to consider adaptations required for the local Ambulatory context before presenting her findings and recommendations. Kelly will also use the scholarship funding and trauma-informed care focus in her final year of her Master of Nursing, majoring in research.

For Kelly, the impact of this project will be significant, not only for patients and families but for the well-being of staff, who have their own lived experiences of adversity and therefore can also be affected by ‘trauma’.

“When a child or parent is on constant alert and ready to fight, run or hide, their ability to engage in treatment, to be active participants in care, is significantly reduced. So too is the ability of staff to meet a child’s healthcare needs if they don’t use a trauma-informed care approach. This includes recognising vicarious trauma and seeking support when needed,” said Kelly.

“I am incredibly humbled and grateful to be awarded the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Nursing Development Scholarship. I can’t thank the scholarship committee enough for seeing my passion and drive and giving me the opportunity to bring about meaningful change in nursing practice. I want to thank the RCH Auxiliaries and BankVic for supporting this scholarship, which enables nursing development and the provision of excellent paediatric care,” she added.

About the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Nursing Development Scholarship

First established in 2009 by the Auxiliaries Executive Committee (AEC), the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Nursing Development Scholarship was created to advance the fine talent of nurses at the RCH, ensuring the hospital continues to be at the forefront of world class practice.

The scholarship is named in honour of the late Dame Elisabeth Murdoch AC DBE and recognises the wonderful contribution she has made to the RCH since 1933.

It is the largest scholarship available to nurses at the RCH, and each year, one nurse is awarded this prestigious scholarship to help further develop their career and change the future of paediatric healthcare.

In 2017, BankVic, a member owned bank that serves police, health and emergency services, as well as their families and friends, began supporting the scholarship, a generosity that has continued into 2023.

Learn more about the scholarship Support the scholarship today