Growing up in rural Australia, I have always found it appealing to work in a remote environment. As a Registered Nurse, I’ve worked primarily worked ED but knew my chance to work in remote Australia would have to wait until my sons had left home. One day a book was passed around at work which featured Remote Area Health Corps (RAHC) and after reading that RAHC works primarily with Indigenous communities, I knew that this was my opportunity and began the process to become credentialed.

In 2013, I embarked on my first placement to Yuendemu, a community located 290km north-west of Alice Springs, accompanied by one of RAHC’s Remote Educators, Sharon Gibbard. The Remote Educator program provides support to health professionals to assist with the transition to the remote environment, both clinically and culturally. That first week, Sharon helped me adjust to the different computer systems, how to utilise the CARPA manual (the best-practice clinical pathways used in the Northern Territory) and where to get access and how to use the various useful resources.  Whilst I did feel that I was clinically prepared, it was great to have someone with me that first week to just be able to bounce ideas off, so I wasn’t constantly asking other staff members of the Health Centre for information.

The placements working in Indigenous communities certainly don’t come without their challenges, both clinically and culturally. Coincidently, this is also the main reason why I love working in the remote environment. The challenges help me to improve my own clinical skills and learn about the different medical presentations that vary from Top End to Central Australia. For example, In Groote Eylandt in the Top End, I saw a lot of fungal infections which you just wouldn’t see in the communities in Central Australia due to the environmental differences.

My passion for remote nursing has turned into a new career as I became one of the Remote  Educators myself.  I was approached by RAHC to see if I would be interested in the education space, and after 16 months, I felt I was ready to go and support the new-to-remote health professionals starting their journey.

From the clinics that I have worked in as a Remote Educator, the Health Centre appreciates having an Educator there for the first week. It allows the new-to-remote health professionals to really hit the ground running and, after we leave, feeling more prepared. I have now completed three Remote Educator placements in Central and Top End Northern Territory.

Whilst working remote is something that I absolutely love, it’s important that people are realistic – it can be exhausting, especially the on-call components of placements. There is not always access to a District Medical Officer (DMO) in person but they are available over the phone. You become the DMO’s eyes and ears as the treatment, and possible evacuation of the patients, relies on your clinical assessment. Using the CARPA manual to guide your practice and treatment, you are responsible for applying and dispensing the appropriate care and each case becomes a great opportunity to make your own decisions. You  own those decisions and it helps build your confidence and by using the available resources, start to work at an autonomous level.

Working remote is so different to anything that you would have ever done. There is a lot of support available from RAHC, the Remote Educators and other resources which allows you to get outside of your comfort zone. Come with an open mind, a sense of humour and just have a ball.

Would you like to share your RAHC experience with other Health Professionals? We are always looking for RAHC Health Professionals to tell us about their experience, by preparing a RAHC story. If you are willing to share your story, please contact your Placement Consultant or email us.