We teamed up with International Health and Medical Services to interview Laura Pantry, a Registered Nurse and Clinical Reporting Nurse within Immigration Detention. International Health and Medical Services provide primary and mental health care services within the Australian immigration detention network under a contract with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Please introduce yourself!

I trained as a registered nurse at the University of Greenwich in England and after graduating was lucky enough to be offered a grad position as an ICU nurse in a private hospital on the Gold Coast in Queensland. Once I completed my grad program, I transferred to the emergency department in the same hospital to expand my skillset and on receiving my Australian permanent residency, I began travelling the length and breadth of the country, working in ICU and emergency departments in multiple regional and rural areas, whilst attaining my post-graduate certificate in emergency nursing. I then decided to travel further by working on cruise ships as a senior nursing officer.

In 2013 a good friend told me about her experience working with IHMS. We had both travelled to Christmas Island for a scuba diving holiday several years earlier and both loved it, so when she told me they were recruiting, I thought I’d apply. Two weeks later I found myself back on Christmas Island, but this time not only did I have the chance to dive every weekend, I also got to work with an amazing multidisciplinary team in a truly multicultural environment, I was well and truly hooked.

What inspired you to work for IHMS as a Clinical Reporting Nurse?

After 18 months on Christmas Island as a primary health nurse, and then clinical team leader, I transferred to Nauru for a six-month period as the Settlement clinic manager, before moving to Manus island in Papua New Guinea, as a clinical team leader, and then health services manager (HSM). In 2017, our HR department sent around an internal expressions of interest announcement, looking for clinical reporting nurses.

As my position on Manus was FIFO, I spoke to HR to offer to help out during my breaks between rotations, as I was really interested in understanding the Clinical Reporting Team’s (CRT) role (as HSM I received tons of requests for information from them, but never really knew what they did with my responses).

When the Manus island centre closed, I took a six-month break from nursing to focus on starting my own business, but I really missed working for IHMS. Once the business was set up and running, I contacted the CRT team leader to see if there were any positions available and I was delighted to be offered a full-time position doing a job I absolutely love.

What does your day look like as a Clinical Reporting Nurse?

It varies from day to day, which keeps it super interesting. As a team, we rotate through various portfolios and are assigned to work on specific requests, reports and registers. As I have been with the team for several years, I have been trained in all areas of the work our team is responsible for, so every day is definitely different.

On any given day I could be assigned work on a plethora of different tasks, including writing individual health summaries, investigating, and responding to enquiries and complaints, analysing data for statistical reporting, managing our many clinical registers and regular reports, clinical coding, and supporting and training other team members.

As many people in our team work remotely, we have daily team calls to discuss what we are working on and when we may be available to be assigned more work, to raise any concerns or questions we may have that we think other members of the team may be able to assist with and to catch up on any updates or announcements from management or the Department of Home Affairs. We also have other smaller less frequent meetings with other areas of the business, or the Department as required.

How did your clinical background assist you with this role at IHMS Head Office?

My clinical background assists me in my role every day. Having nursed in so many different settings, I have been able to use my experience, not only of healthcare in general, but also of the care needs of the detainee population and how health care is managed on site at immigration detention centres, to be able to process and produce accurate, detailed reports as needed.

What are some of the challenges of your role?

One of the main challenges, especially when starting out in the role, is learning to write in the different styles and formats required for the wide range of reports, responses, and registers that our team is responsible for. Another is accurately interpreting information in patients’ medical records and analysing data to ensure the reports, responses and registers we produce fit the brief.

How do you manage/overcome these?

We manage/overcome these by working as a truly supportive team. When learning any new report/register/request type we are provided with excellent training and supervision to ensure we are not only competent in completing each task, but also to ensure that we feel confident in and can take pride in the quality of our work.

What are some of the rewarding aspects?

There are so many, it’s difficult to know where to start. I would say though that the most rewarding aspect of my current role with the Company is our team. I’ve had the opportunity to work in so many wonderful places with tons of amazing people over the years, but I can honestly say that this team is just the best. I have never felt so valued and supported as I do in this role. Oh, and I should add, we laugh. We laugh a LOT!

Do you miss clinical nursing?

I thought I did at one point. I was offered a clinical role in private practice as a nurse consultant in 2019. I decided to give it a go but regretted it almost immediately. I did enjoy working with patients face to face again, but I felt I didn’t belong in that environment anymore. I lasted six months, before reaching out to see if there was a position back with CRT available, and lucky for me there was.

Now I’m determined to stay (unless they kick me out lol). As an aside though, there are several part-time members of our team who continue to work in clinical settings as well as with CRT, as that is what works best for them.

What are some skill sets that people should have prior to working in a similar position?

Experience with Microsoft Word and Excel are essential for the role. Accurate and fast typing skills are also needed. From a clinical perspective, experience in primary health, emergency/acute care and mental health care settings is highly advantageous. We have members of the team from many backgrounds and health care settings.

What key message would you like nurses who read this to take away from this interview with you?

That nursing is such a fantastic career path. There are so many opportunities out there for nurses. Whether it’s seeing the world, or staying within 5km of home, working in clinical, research, admin or management positions, there is something for every nurse out there.