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Personal perspectives from our Nurse Medallists: triumphs, challenges, and why we need more MS Nurses

Outstanding Australian MS Nurses were recognised among MS Australia’s 50 Years President’s Medal recipients in 2022.

Our MS Nurse medallists share what they love, what they’ve learnt, and the challenges of MS Nursing.

They hope their career stories inspire a new generation of MS Nurses to help people live well with the complex challenges of MS.


Tim O'MaleyTim O’Maley

Tim O’Maley was one of the first MS Specialist Nurses and the first MS Nurse Practitioner in Australia.

He has worked across community, clinic and hospital settings in Queensland for over two decades. A fierce advocate for people living in regional and remote areas in his almost 13 years working for MS Queensland, Tim pioneered web-based education for people with MS.

As a Life Member of MS Nurses Australasia, Tim has been a constant source of support and education for other MS and general nurses. He continues his work as a Nurse Practitioner across both Princess Alexandra and Gold Coast hospitals with his MS nurse-led and patient-focused clinics.

 What makes a good MS Nurse?

“Learn – and keep learning. I continue to learn from my nursing and medical colleagues. I learn from and with my patients.

You have to be flexible with how you deliver your care and knowledge. You have to be respectful to, and most importantly, honest with the person right in front of you.

You have to look after yourself – this ‘job’ can be exceptionally rewarding, but it is hard, probably because there are not enough of us!”

What I love about the job

“You develop a bond with patients and their families – I’ve worked with some patients for over 20 years, and they let you into their lives – the good and the bad.

There is no pattern to MS, no one-size-fits-all. You are always thinking, challenging yourself, and at times your patients.

The collaboration with the clinical teams I work with is amazing.

But the thing I love the most is my MS Nursing colleagues – inspiring, supportive, collaborative, passionate.”

What are the challenges?

“Same as the last answer! There is no pattern to MS, no one-size-fits-all. It’s the part of the role I enjoy the most, and also the most challenging part.

I can’t let this question go by without reiterating – there are not enough of us. I work two jobs across two very different hospital districts, with nearly 1000 patients.”


Louise HatterLouise Hatter

Louise Hatter is renowned internationally for her outstanding work as an MS Nurse.

Bringing MS clinical expertise from the UK to Perth over 20 years ago, she has led the education and development of dozens of MS Nurses at MS Western Australia.

Lou established nurse-led clinics in WA and developed strong links with the MS community to provide a consistent and high-quality source of clinical care, advice and support.

She has developed resources for children with MS and their families and for children of people living with MS. Lou is known for her gentle but fierce support of people living with MS and their families. Her exceptional leadership is known nationwide in her new role as a key nurse support leader for MS Nurses and people living with MS.

How did I get into MS Nursing and why did I stay?

“I was working in stoma therapy and met a young uni student who had been diagnosed with MS at only 19. She had very active disease with bladder and bowel dysfunction, and ‘opted’ for a stoma to help give back some control in her life!

Seeing first-hand the great need in MS inspired me to become one of the first MS nurses in the UK. The role had to be built from the ground up, as disease modifying therapies (DMTs) for MS were brand new, and there were very few resources for patients regarding DMT or symptom management.

I have stayed in MS Nursing because it’s about empowering the person with MS.

While my role has changed over the last few years, this remains the major driver.”

What makes a good MS Nurse?

“Listen to the patient and learn what they see as their priority, rather than the medical model of priority.

Negotiate when the two don’t align.

I am always changing and developing as the area changes.”

What I love about the job?

“Everything!!

I love educating peers and patients, the sharing of knowledge, and the encouragement of adherence to DMTs to keep MS under control.

Thanks to medical research, we now have 14 DMTs for MS, compared to none in the 90s!

I’ve loved watching this ever-changing landscape because of the dedication and drive of those working in the field.

Most of all, I love knowing that what we all do as MS nurses makes a significant difference in people’s lives.”

What are the challenges?

“There is huge diversity and disparity of MS care across Australia.

Patients living outside of metropolitan areas are often disadvantaged for MS support.

We have a fantastic health system in Australia regarding medication, early diagnosis and early intervention compared to internationally.

But when we don’t have the resources to coordinate this in a timely manner, both the patient and the health system suffer.

We desperately need more MS Nurses in Australia, especially for rural and remote patients.”


Kaye HooperKaye Hooper

Kaye Hooper has been a MS Nurse for nearly three decades, and was instrumental in setting up MS Nurses Australasia. She is one of the Founding Board members of International Organisation of MS Nurses (IOMSN).

Over these 30 years, she has been working in University MS Research Units, Hospital MS Clinic, and in MS Queensland’s community outreach programmes. Her research included pivotal MS studies, such as the ground-breaking trials of cell therapy for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in MS.

A mentor to many, Kaye has been a significant contributor to the MS literature, presented nationally and internationally, and remains an icon of Australian nursing.

How did I become an MS Nurse?

“It was nearly thirty years ago, in 1994, that I became an MS Research Nurse.

That was the entry point to a three-decade, privileged, fascinating, exhausting and challenging multi-role career in the world of MS.”

Why did I stay in MS Nursing?

“Two things that were key to keeping me in the job and loving it for so many years.

The first was being part of a team of dedicated and excellent MS researchers and health professionals.

And the second has been caring for, and journeying with, all the courageous people with MS.”

What have been the triumphs and challenges?

“Decades of worldwide research into MS has resulted in massive advances in the diagnosis, treatment and management of MS.

But we still have the final challenge before us – finding the cure for MS.”


Belinda BardsleyBelinda Bardsley

Belinda Bardsley holds a unique position in MS care, working clinically and in research management, overseeing MS clinical trials at The Austin Hospital in Melbourne.

Belinda became President of MS Nurses Australasia in 2017, raising awareness of the value and breadth of MS Nurse practice nationally and globally.

Belinda and her team support specialist MS Nurse education by providing preceptorship programs to new MS Nurses, helping them develop a broader understanding of MS care and clinical trials skills by providing training by observation in their large multidisciplinary clinic.

What I’ve learnt from MS Nursing?

“The MS Nurse is critical at diagnosis, when fear and uncertainty is at an all-time high.

Education, reassurance and support at this time can prevent years of trauma, uncertainty and distress.

Most importantly, it can set people on a trajectory to live well and minimise the impact of MS.”

How did I get into MS Nursing and why did I stay?

“I moved into MS after working in cancer clinical research. I was worried I would miss oncology and no longer feel like I was making an important difference to patients.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. As soon as I met my first patient and began to understand the unique complexities and challenges of MS, I was hooked!

The past 15 years have brought a vast array of new treatments and understanding in this field; it’s been such an exciting and important era for MS.”

 What makes a good MS Nurse?

  • “Hone strong counselling skills across an infinite variety of human triumphs and tragedies.
  • Develop strong clinical and triaging skills and a sound understanding of the ultimate black box: the central nervous system.
  • Keep on top of the many developments, new treatments and areas of research in this field over the past 15 years.”

 What are the challenges?

“The MS Nurse Care in Australia Report, published in 2022, showed that MS Nurses make a big difference to the health outcomes of people with MS, but there aren’t enough MS Nurses to go around.

One-third of people diagnosed with MS do not have access to an MS Nurse. The challenge is to change this.

We need to increase our numbers, improve awareness of our role and the value of our role, support our existing workforce and attain equity of access for all people diagnosed with MS.

I want everyone diagnosed with MS to have access to an MS Nurse, from diagnosis onwards, because we make a meaningful difference.”


Sharon BarlowSharon Barlow

Sharon Barlow began as an MS social worker and then became an MS Nurse.

As a Nurse, she worked in the community for MS South Australia and Northern Territory. She then transitioned to a hospital setting at Flinders Medical Centre, South Australia.

Sharon has supported and educated MS Nurses through almost 20 years of generous voluntary service to MS Nurses Australasia.

She established the first MS Clinic in South Australia with Professor Mark Slee and one of the first Nurse-led MS clinics in Australia. She has been essential to MS research through her own nurse-led research, as well as supporting neurologist-led projects and the international MS clinical database, MSBase.

What I love about the job

“Navigating the health and disability sectors are challenging for anyone, especially in crises.

It is so important that every person knows where and how to reach out for help.

I love the privilege of walking alongside a person from the point of MS diagnosis and giving them the tools to formulate their MS health management goals.”

 What are the things I’ve needed to be the best MS Nurse I can be?

“Over 20 years in the role, I am still constantly learning and being challenged as research guides changes in the landscape.

One of the most critical parts of the MS Nurse role is offering predictability when the future seems so unpredictable.

I love making a real human connection with the person diagnosed with MS, and being able to reassure them that I will help them navigate the next steps whichever way their MS goes.”


What is MS Australia doing?

Our 50th Anniversary Nurse medallists deliver life-changing care to people with MS.

Following the release of the MS Nurse Care in Australia Report, MS Australia released a powerful video on World MS Day this year, MS Nurses – Life-Changing Care, as part of a new national communications and advocacy campaign to raise awareness of MS Nurses; their importance to MS care and to demonstrate the need to bring greater attention to the MS Nurse workforce issue in Australia.

You can watch the video and learn more about MS Australia’s important campaign here.

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Personal perspectives from our Nurse Medallists: triumphs, challenges, and why we need more MS Nurses