Keeping your finger on the pulse

A deep dive into remote nursing

Date - 11 October 2022

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For Clinical Educator (Nursing) Kate Beyer, there is only so much you can learn and achieve from the four walls of the office.

So for two weeks, Kate immersed herself in remote nursing in the picturesque Katherine in the Northern Territory as part of the Transition to Remote Area Nursing course run by the Centre for Remote Health.

Kate said this was a chance for her to get a better understanding of what it is like for our nurses and health workforce that live and work in rural and remote areas.

“Living and working in regional Queensland doesn’t really give me a good understanding of the real challenges that our rural and remote workforce face,” Kate said.

“Unless you live it, you can’t really understand it. You can read it in an article, you can read what the research says, but it doesn’t really sink in until you actually live it.”

Embarking on a journey that prepares registered nurses with the skills and knowledge required to be effective and skilled workers within primary health care teams, Kate left for Katherine ready to dive into the deep end.

The first week saw the 22 participants immersing themselves in culture and framing their Indigenous Health knowledge.

“We arrived on a Friday and on Saturday morning, we met at Katherine Hospital before travelling to Nitmiluk National Park,” Kate said.

“We camped there for the night, completed team building exercises, hiked around Nitmulik National Park and travelled by boat along Katherine Gorge.

“We had Indigenous guides to share the history of the local area and the history and culture of the Jarowyn people.

“That was a lovely experience and set the scene before we jumped into learning more about the health issues that Indigenous people in the Northern Territory face.

“We learnt about different government policies that have been implemented throughout history, the social and health impacts they have had on Indigenous people, and the subsequent health behaviours and outcomes we see in society now.

“It was very confronting. Some of the stories, the living conditions and the experiences are very real and often not very nice.

“While the course was targeted mainly toward the Northern Territory and the top end, it is still so relevant to us in south west Queensland. It gave me a better understanding of the Indigenous culture, their health needs and how I can be culturally sensitive in my delivery of care.

“If you learn more about the culture, you get a really good understanding of why there is a lot of fear of government and healthcare provision.

“It really connected the dots for me in regards to history, policy and health. It took everything I have learned in the past to another level entirely.”

“It was very eye opening but also very rewarding to be involved with.”

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With the first week focused on cultural immersion, the second week saw clinical skills modules delivered amongst the group where theory and practical skills were taught for triage, plastering and suturing in remote settings.

The group practised physically assessing clients, conducting comprehensive health assessments and learning what you can use where resources are limited.

Kate learnt to make Marangmarang, a bush medicine ointment that helps with colds and congestion and skin conditions, made from the Pterocaulon sphacelatum plant, and she has continued to use it since she has been home.

The trip also saw swims in the hot springs, driving very straight roads with no fences to keep cattle contained, learning a little of the Jarowyn language, Kriol and receiving a water blessing prior to entering the Katherine Gorge where the Bolong (rainbow serpent) lives so he couldn’t smell the group’s presence.

Overall, the biggest take home of the course for Kate was a better understanding for Indigenous people and the difficulties they have.

“My main message I will pass on to the SQRH staff and students will be about how we communicate with Indigenous communities because we can’t be thinking up great ideas and projects without any consultation,” Kate said.

“Each individual community needs to be consulted separately to see what their needs are for it to work and to have any real benefit.

“I’ve always said to students that if they have the opportunity to work rural and remote, your scope of practice is just so much more exciting. It’s certainly more autonomous in rural and remote areas and so therefore, it is a good challenge.

“If you want to progress yourself, rural and remote is the way to go. You will get everything.

“It is a very rewarding experience.”

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