Life of a hospital chaplain: Dane Millanta and Trish Nguyen, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital

Dane Millanta and Trish Nguyen have together spent 22 years as Buddhist chaplains at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown. Since the Buddhist Council of NSW was awarded an additional subsidy in 2021 they each increased their hours, so we now have a presence in the hospital four days a week. We asked them both to let us know a bit more about hospital chaplaincy. 

In hospital people find themselves in an unfamiliar setting whilst being confronted by unforeseen circumstances. Dane’s vision is to be a compassionate and peaceful presence in a time of chaos. Trish notes that every patient’s concerns are different: ‘Some patients are afraid of isolation and loneliness or just want to talk about things they haven’t told anyone about before. A lot of patients are dealing with serious illness, pain, confusion and sadness or shock. Some are afraid of what will happen in the future and feeling anguish. Some are preparing for dying.’

Patients may elect a religion on their hospital admissions form. At RPA Dane and Trish also provide support to those who have not selected a religion. Those patients may want to discuss emotional or spiritual concerns or as Trish says ‘If they don’t want to talk I tell them they can always let me know if they change their mind later. Sometimes they just want company and that is OK too. It is important for the patient to know it is their choice, if they want to see a chaplain or not.’

Chaplains support hospital staff in various ways such as delivering difficult news to family, friends and loved ones. Staff also have personal matters to discuss and as Dane points out it is important to be ‘supportive of their individual belief systems enabling them to discuss emotional and spiritual concerns in a confidential manner.’ As a Vietnamese speaker Trish is often asked to help staff explain or discuss treatment with Vietnamese-speaking patients. 

What is the best thing about working as a hospital chaplain? Both Trish and Dane were overflowing with their favourite aspects of the role:


  • Meeting and sharing humanity with some incredible individuals bringing compassion and companionship into reality. 
  • Continually challenging my comfort zone, which makes me a better person in my life and in the people’s lives that I serve.


  • Assisting patients and  their families with Buddhist practices and seeing their mood lighten. 
  • Witnessing patients loosen their anxiety and relax with some simple mindful breathing guidance (meditation). 
  • Making friends with patients who have repeat hospital admissions and being inspired by how they  find strength and wisdom to deal with their suffering.  .
  • Receiving the gratitude of patients learning about Buddhism for the first time.


Dane and Trish form part of a multifaith team at RPAH and benefit from their supportive relationships with colleagues. As Trish says ‘We are like a family!’

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