We chat with Bec Telfer about her journey in regional and rural nursing. Breaking comfort zones, tackling isolation and keeping open-minded are all parts of the experience. If you’ve ever thought of Rural and Remote nursing then this is a great read! Before you read on, go join our exclusive PRIVATE FB Group ‘Rural & Remote Nursing | The Australian Outback‘ to ask questions and network with other like-minded nurses, midwives and students.

The rural nursing journey so far

I’ve been agency nursing in rural/remote/ED for a bit over 3 years now. This year alone I’ve been lucky enough to work in QLD, WA, NT and TAS, and am currently working on beautiful Flinders Island. I’ve worked in large EDs such as Cairns Base and small MPCs like here on Flinders. Nurse-run clinics aren’t for me at this stage (I’ll leave those to you amazing RANs).

I usually contract for 8-12 weeks but also keep things flexible. If I like a place I can usually extend, and if I don’t I can move on. Choosing when and where I work has been a game changer after years of burnout. Although I grew up and trained in Brisbane, I’ve always worked in R&R, getting my start in the tiny town of Augathella in South West QLD. I then moved to Ingham in north QLD where I got the chance to experience working between the ED, ward and theatre. I loved the opportunity to work in small teams and build a broad skill base.

I wanted to try agency nursing to push myself out of my comfort zone and see more of this beautiful county. I’ve certainly achieved that. Although it is not without its challenges. Sometimes you don’t really know what you’re getting into until you’re in the thick of it. Some hospitals need agency because they can’t retain staff due to tough working conditions or toxic environments, while others welcome you with open arms and leave you with amazing new friends. The key is to be adaptable.

I work as either an RN or CN and don’t currently have any plans to become a RAN… but who knows what the future holds! I’ve never had an issue finding rural work with my ED background. Although I’ve loved travelling the country for over 2 years, I’m feeling the pull to settle into one place…. I just don’t know where yet! There are just too many amazing places in this country

Top pieces of advice for nurses moving into R&R

– don’t “fake it ‘til you make it”. That is the worst advice I’ve heard nurses give each other. Be honest about your skills and capabilities. In my experience, nurses and doctors don’t mind if you don’t know something and are happy to teach you as long as you’re upfront from the start. Be social! It can get lonely and isolating sometimes so if you find some nice people go for coffee, dinner, on an adventure… anything really. You’ll be making memories for life before you know it.

How to choose an agency and what to look for?

I chose my agency based on the recommendations of other agency nurses. I’ve seen a few nurses switch agencies after discussing accommodation costs with other agency nurses. It’s not only about money but support. Reach out to a few agencies and see what kind of response you get back. Weigh up things like hourly rate, accommodation costs and travel expenses. But if you can, ask other agency nurses about their experiences.

Things you wish you knew before you started

I wish I knew how to pack efficiently. 2.5 years later and I’m still an over-packer. How badly my skin would react to the water in different remote towns…. Cost me a lot in skincare. How much better it is to have a car with you! The freedom of being able to go on an adventure whenever want is very freeing. I’ve done a few contacts without my car and felt more isolated.