Oct. 1, 2019

Former alumni president and graduate student finds calling in paediatric palliative care

50 Faces of Nursing: Kate Wong BN’12
Kate Wong in Dominican Republic in 2011 with preschool students.
Kate Wong in Dominican Republic in 2011 with preschool students.

For registered nurse and graduate student Kate Wong, BN’12, it was a moment in class during her third year of nursing at UCalgary where she found her calling.

It all started when Kathryn DaSilva, a clinical nurse specialist from Rotary Flames House (RFH), came to speak to Wong and her classmates. “Before that, I had never considered that children could need palliative care,” says Wong, who struck up a conversation with DaSilva after the talk. Soon after, Wong became the first final practicum student at RFH, Alberta's first and only hospice for children. She was hired as a RN right after that practicum.

“I felt at home instantly, and paediatric palliative care has become one of my biggest passions,” she says. “As an adult and a nurse, despite my life and professional experience, I may still not know what is ‘best’ for a particular child unless I ask them what they think and feel.”  

  • Photo above: Kate Wong, BN'12 with preschool students in the Dominican Republic in 2011 during a school health visit.

Wong describes having fond memories of her graduation from UCalgary Nursing and says, “I am so proud of what everyone from the Class of 2012 has achieved and am so grateful to have many of my former classmates as colleagues and friends.”

For seven years, Wong served on the Faculty of Nursing’s alumni executive as president and co-president (with Tyler Hume in 2016-17 and with Dominic Chan in 2018-19). She is currently back at UCalgary completing her Master of Nursing (thesis-based) degree under the supervision of Dr. Nancy Moules, studying the language of dying children as expressed in their art.

“Art can be a useful form of expression for young children who face concepts like death and dying before they are able to speak about their experiences with words,” she says. “The interpretations of the child’s art and their conversations around what they are drawing will give children who are dying a voice in the research.”

Katie Webber, Nancy Moules, Kate Wong

From left, Katie Webber, Dr. Nancy Moules, Kate Wong at the 2019 ARNET Scholar's Reception.

What most excites you about the future of nursing or changes coming in the profession?

“Health care is increasingly scientific and technical, and I truly believe nurses will play a large role in recognizing that there is always a person that is effected by illness, by medical interventions, and by technology. Patients certainly benefit from advancements in modern medicine; however, they thrive when they are cared for as people first, and a disease or condition, second.

“Nursing is a balance between the natural and human sciences, and I look forward to seeing how nurses advocate and care for people and families in a system that is driven by technology and natural science.”

Is there a nursing issue you are especially passionate about or you would like to change?
“I would love for children to be more involved in nursing research about their experiences and needs. I have noticed a shift from paediatric populations being thought of as incapable of understanding complex concepts, such as death and illness, to recognizing that children construct meaningful worlds for themselves.

“I am hopeful that researchers will continue to recognize the unique perspective of children, and find creative ways to hear their perspectives that are developmentally and experientially appropriate.”

What advice do you have for aspiring nurses?

“There are so many different ways to be a nurse, and how nurses are portrayed in popular culture does not capture the full scope of what nurses are capable of, of where we work, and what we do. Talk to RNs who work in various care environments, you may be surprised what you learn!”

Is there one luxury in life you would rather not live without?

“A good night's sleep with a really nice pillow.”

Kate Wong with grandfather and father.

Kate with grandfather Bill Townsend (left) and father Gordon Wong in 2012; all are UCalgary alumni.

All through 2019, we'll be highlighting 50 Faces of Nursing and profiling nursing members in celebration of our 50th anniversary. If you know someone noteworthy (faculty, staff, alum, students, partners, etc.) who you would like us to feature, tell us more with this short online form. For more, visit nursing.ucalgary.ca/50