The Remote Area Health Corps (RAHC) is a Federally-funded not-for-profit programme offering urban-based Health Professionals (HPs) opportunities to undertake short-term placements in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the Northern Territory (NT). RAHC works with an incredible team of General Practitioners, Registered Nurses, Dentists, Dental Therapists, Dental Assistants and Audiologists, one of whom is Dental Therapist Lynne Gruell.

“I have been working with RAHC as a Dental Therapist for eight years now and after stumbling across an article I wrote in 2016, I felt it was time to put pen to paper once again, so to speak.

COVID-19 certainly made my 2020 experience quite different to the usual placement. That trip meant self-isolation in a hotel for two weeks and eight weeks away from home. With the right preparation, I did well in isolation and was grateful to have done so knowing that the communities remain free from COVID-19. 

I am currently on my 16th placement and can honestly say that I am still inspired to seek more. My time in Numbulwar is almost at it’s end and I’m leaving with another adventure up my sleeve. This time, I was lucky enough to spend it with Natalie Geerkins by my side. It's definitely teamwork out here and I am so grateful to have worked with dedicated, hardworking assistants who helps make the day run smoothly. 

Every placement is unique. The locations, people, experiences and memories, all so different but equally great. It takes a sense of adventure and often a sense of humour to make the experience work, fortunately, we always seem to have an abundance of both.

I would encourage anyone to leave their comfort zone and be open to the opportunities offered by remote work. This experience may not work for everyone but you never know until you’ve given it a chance. Challenges are all part of the experience and without testing yourself, you sometimes don't know your full potential. Remote work allows you to experience a totally different work environment and pushes you to achieve things you didn't realise you were capable of. It is an opportunity to see parts of our amazing country that few people get to experience and meet people who give so much of themselves to help others. 

Knowing that I have been part of a team of health care workers who together improve the health outcomes of people in community and educate families on how to improve oral health has been a privilege. Providing treatment to alleviate or prevent pain is so necessary because the flow-on effect of poor oral health is huge. Pain, loss of sleep (not only for the child but often the whole household), poor attendance at school and poor concentration are all results of not recognising and treating decay at an early age.

I am going home next week with the knowledge that I will return and do it all again. I’m already excited to face the challenge of my next placement, looking forward to engaging with our amazing patients, the people in community and the dedicated health care workers. Thank you RAHC for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the team of health care workers travelling to remote areas in the Northern Territory.”

This story was shared with the RAHC on 01 November 2021.

If you would like to share your RAHC story, please get in touch with your Regional Coordinator.