St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne nurses recognised with Nursing Excellence Awards


Image: Nursing Excellence Awards winners Sue Cowling, Krysdel Cabanilla, Kirsten Sandstrom, Erin A'Hearn and Katherine McBrearty with Chief Executive Nicole Tweddle (left) and Chief Nursing Officer Jacqui Bilo (right)

St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne (SVHM) is proud to recognise the merit and achievements of our nurses through our 2023 Nursing Excellence Awards.

Held as part of our annual International Nurses Day celebrations, the Nursing Excellence Awards are an opportunity to recognise outstanding nurses at all stages of their careers.

A total of twenty-three nurses were celebrated as finalists across the below five categories.

CNO Leadership and Excellence Award - Sue Cowling, Nurse Unit Manager, Emergency Department


This award recognises an outstanding nurse leader who has made a significant contribution to both their team and the wider organisation.

The recipient showcases exactly what it means to be a St Vincent's nurse, providing compassionate care to those who we serve and supporting their team members to thrive.

Sue has been part of SVHM for more than 40 years and is one of the longest serving Emergency Nurse Unit Managers in Victoria.

Throughout her years of leadership and management, Sue has always demonstrated kindness and compassion, while supporting the team to strive for excellence in their care delivery.

Sue is a role model for all women in healthcare and is a truly inspiring leader.

“A nomination for something like this as a leader is not just about you, it’s about your team,“ Sue said.

“You’re only as good as the people working alongside you. I accept this award on behalf of the Emergency Department nurses as well as myself because, in nursing, you don’t do anything alone.


Kristy-Lee Jones, Practice Development Nurse, Cancer, 6th Floor and Centre

Corrine Howell, Nurse Unit Manager, Hospital in the Home

Thomas Wilson, Senior Psychiatric Nurse, Mental Health Kathryn Connor, Nurse Unit Manager, 10 West Speciality Services, Neurosurgery, IPS

Kathryn Connor, Nurse Unit Manager, 10 West Specialty Services, Neurosurgery, IPS

Kathleen Steele, Diabetes Education Manager, Department of Endocrinology and Diabetes

Graduate of the Year Award – Erin A’Hearn, Grade 2 Registered Nurse, 4 West


This award recognises an outstanding graduate nurse in their first year of practice.

Erin displays compassion and justice in all that she does, and patients and families have commented on how comfortable and safe they feel with Erin as their primary nurse.

Erin consistently follows best practice, she is reliable and is a highly valued member of every team that she is a part of.

“I am so honoured to receive this award. I never thought I would achieve this, and I can’t thank all the lovely nurses and staff for all their support and help,” Erin said.

“St Vincent’s has an incredible culture that I am so lucky to be a part of, and I look forward to many more years of working together.”


Anastazya Clark, Grade 2 Registered Nurse, 9 East

Stephanie Lucena, Pathway to Specialty Program Participant, Emergency Department

Mackenzie Merson, Graduate Nurse Hannah Kelly, Pathway to Speciality Program Participant CIU, 4 West

Trent Miller, Grade 2 Registered Nurse, 10 West Neurosurgery Postgraduate

Hannah Kelly, Pathway to Speciality Program Participant CIU, 4 West

Postgraduate Nurse of the Year Award - Kirsten Sandstrom, Registered Nurse, 4 East, Cardiothoracic


This award recognises a nurse who shows exceptional promise through their commitment to postgraduate study and expanding their scope of practice.

Kirsten undertook her Postgraduate Certificate in Cardiac Nursing in 2022.

She is a highly valued member of her team and, despite the pressure of her studies, Kirsten regularly stepped up during staff shortages to lead the team in charge of shifts.

Kirsten is always calm and collected even in the most stressful situations.

“This award is a tribute to all the wonderful nurses and staff we work with at St Vincent’s,” she said.

“The people on the fourth floor are what makes it such a wonderful place to work. It is an honour to be recognised by the hospital and my fellow colleagues.”


Stephanie Beckman, Critical Care Registered Nurse, Emergency Department

Claire Angus, Registered Nurse, 10 West

Hannah Todhunter, Registered Nurse, 8 East, General Medical

Annie Leung, Registered Nurse, 10 West, Neurosurgery

Early Career Nurse of the Year Award - Krysdel Cabanilla, Registered Nurse, 4 West and CCU


This award is given to a nurse in the first five years of their career, who has shown emerging leadership skills and commitment.

Kind, bright and energised, Krysdel is a leading motivator in cardiac services, providing outstanding care and a positive outlook.

She is an excellent communicator and highly engaged with multidisciplinary teams.

Krysdel is warm and welcoming of all new faces to the ward and is currently undertaking her Postgraduate Certificate in Cardiac Nursing.

“Being nominated itself is such an honour, so winning was incredibly unexpected,” Krysdel said.

"The past few years have been tough for us all so I’m so thankful, and I wouldn’t be here without the support of the fourth-floor team, the reason we were able to get the award in the first place.”


Emily Sheerin, Grade 2 Registered Nurse, Pathway to Specialty Program Participant, 10 East

Researcher of the Year Award - Katherine McBrearty, Practice Development Nure, Research and Projects, Education and Learning


This award recognises an early career nurse research who is making a significant impact through their research pursuits and contributing to improvements in their field.

Katherine has been conducting research at SVHM since 2018, focusing on the experience of early career nurses, critical events in subacute care and the role of RUSONs.

Her work examining critical events in the subacute wards led to the introduction of a study day where staff are trained to navigate medical emergencies in the subacute setting.

“This is such an honour to receive,” Katherine said.

“All of the speeches spoke to what I feel about St Vincent’s in terms of the connections we have here and caring about one another. My research interest is in the wellbeing of nursing staff so that means a lot to me personally and professionally.”


Eden Hall, Practice Development Nurse, Perioperative

Marcella Regester, Education Team Leader – Psychiatric Nurse Consultant, Acute Inpatient Services, Mental Health

Thomas Wilson, Senior Psychiatric Nurse, Mental Health

Congratulations to all winners and finalists!