Jo Tam

Empowering the nursing profession in China: how a campaigner for change is using QELCA© to transform end of life care


Jo began her career in nursing before moving on to academic research. Having begun her nursing career in the UK both in Edinburgh and London, she moved to Macau where she is now working as a postdoctoral researcher, researching how Chinese culture has influenced people’s perception and understanding of palliative and end of life care, as well as in the process of developing a new care model of end of life care for people with dementia living in care home settings.

Together with St Christopher’s and Living Will Promotion Association (LWPA), a social movement organisation promoting advance care planning in China, she is working to develop palliative care services across the country through the QELCA© programme. She is a strong advocate of social media, using a highly popular platform used by clinicians all over China to share information and best practices while ensuring that the voice of nursing is a powerful force for change in end of life care.


“We’re trying to empower professionals, often they know what they are doing, they are the experts – they just need encouragement.”

Jo Tam


As a nurse, Jo was motivated by a desire to provide comfort and compassionate care. A growing interest in understanding how this approach could be delivered and improved at scale led her into a career in research and a PhD at Edinburgh. During her doctoral studies, which focused on palliative care in Macau, she worked at St Christopher’s Hospice as a staff nurse.

After completing her PhD, Jo moved to Macau and became a postdoctoral researcher at a nursing college with almost 100 years history of educating nurses in China. Since the move, she has been influential at a national level in the delivery of the QELCA© programme in China. This is now being rolled out across the country by LWPA, a social movement organisation, in partnership with St Christopher’s. Jo gives much of her time as a volunteer and is also currently working on a research project around end of life care for dementia patients.

In the past year alone, despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, three cohorts of 24 trainers have engaged in the Chinese QELCA© programme.

Word is travelling fast. Since the beginning of the initiative around four years ago, Jo has been a passionate advocate of using social media to share information about the programme, collaborate with colleagues and discuss models of best practice with medics across China. She is at the centre of a growing community of professionals all of whom are deeply committed to improving the experiences of patients and their loved ones.

Jo strongly believes that nursing in China should be viewed as a respected professional discipline – one that adheres to the highest of clinical standards yet is ultimately driven by compassion.  She says: “It takes great courage to love and care. Nursing without love and care is not nursing. That is something everyone should celebrate.”  

What are your biggest challenges?

The ageing population in China presents a huge challenge in the delivery of compassionate end of life care, while reaching rural communities can also be problematic.

Set against this backdrop is Jo’s belief that nursing in China should be viewed as a respected clinical discipline in its own right – something which she vocally and actively campaigns for.

“Nursing isn’t always easy. It takes courage and a level of bravery.”

What are your ambitions for the future of nursing?

Jo has ambitious plans for nurses and nursing in Macau and for China. She has a real confidence that the voice of nursing needs to be heard and her fellow professionals will be part of the vanguard.

Through the power of social media, her base for influence is huge. As she develops her research, there is real opportunity for change and a growing interest in her nursing-led approach to care.  


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