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My names Emma, I’m a Graduate Nurse who decided to embark on a rural nursing journey. My love for nursing was inspired by personal experiences and my ability to empathise.
I’ve always found that I’ve had to ability to deeply connect with people and so I thought “what better industry to work in, where I can truly make a difference to they way we provide healthcare”. I feel that nurses have unparalleled opportunities to truly make a difference to the lives of others and to grow as professionals and as better human beings.
My Early Journey
As a nursing student, I really didn’t enjoy ward style nursing, I did a lot of my placements through private hospitals and was exposed to extreme nurse to patient ratios of (1 x RN & 1 x EEN) to 20-22 patients per shift. I did one placement through QLD Health and this was my favourite of all.
When I graduated, I still wasn’t convinced I wanted to be a ward nurse, so I completed a cosmetic injectables course for registered nurses. I learnt a lot but finding a job was near impossible unless you had at least 2-3 years’ experience which was frustrating because you can’t get hired in the first place to get experience (story of my life anyway).
Near the end of my cosmetic training course I was still working for a large retail company (with a registered nurse degree) and I thought to myself “I need to be out of here by Christmas!” I had a friend who was working out in Surat (South West QLD) completing her grad year and she had told me about how great it was and how many things you get to do as a first-year nurse.
I went onto the QLD health page and looked up areas that I would like to work in the South West. Roma seemed the most appealing because there was access to shopping centres and civilisation. I made a few phone calls and found the email of one the employees that is on the board of hiring new staff/grads at Roma Hospital and sent through an expression of interest email, asking if they were doing a mid-year grad intake and sent my resume and cover letter anyway. I received an email practically the next day stating that they were in the process of taking a mid-year intake and that they would put me in the system early before the grad portal opens. It really pays to just send an email and put out some feelers, I think employers really like to see initiative and keenness.
Anyway, I was lucky in a way because when I messaged my student clinical facilitator from the Sunshine Coast to remind her she was my reference) she knew the DON out here at Injune Hospital (1 hour from Roma). She contacted her to let her know I was applying for this area, and a day later I was asked to send through my resume to the DON at Injune. A week later I got a phone call/ mini interview and they offered me a job in the same phone call. They wanted me to start in July which was one month before the grad year began and said even if I don’t get into the grad program they would train me anyway (I did get into the grad program by the way). So I accepted the job and made arrangements to move etc which was really scary but exciting as I was leaving all of my family and friends. Luckily my boyfriend agreed to move with me! Anyway, enough about me…
As part of working in a rural area, they supply free accommodation in the nursing quarters and all rooms must have their own bathroom and air-conditioning as part of the nursing union rules (most of the time anyway). I work in a small hospital which has 4 acute beds a 2-bed bay emergency department and has 8 permanent (long stay) patients which are aged care residents. In small rural areas, there aren’t many aged care facilities, so QLD health takes on a small portion of these patients. I had 1-2 weeks of supported shifts with another RN which was fantastic.
My role in the facility is to be the Nurse in Charge, which is incredible but can also be scary being a first-year nurse out. I oversee the long stay residents as well as the emergency department as well as the EEN’s, AIN’s and occupational staff. Most days we have emergency presentations come in, they can range from foreign bodies in the eye, lacerations, chest pain and sometimes motor vehicle accidents. We learn how to triage in our first few weeks and I was cannulating and taking bloods within my first month as an RN (which we get trained in of course). We are never alone, we always have a DON/CN during week days and on-call for weekends. Our medical officers have accommodation in the nursing quarters also, so they are always nearby. You learn to manage most small emergency presentations on your own such as dressings, simple analgesia and small lacerations. When we do have big emergencies come in such as chest pain, motor vehicle accidents or compartment syndrome etc, we always call in the on-call nurse and have the doctor present.
There’s a lot of opportunity in rural facilities for eg; I am using ultra sound machines, we can suture and plaster, assist with resus like intubation etc and emergency drugs, we can use slit lamps for foreign bodies in eye and sometimes escort patients to be flown out to another facility. Doctors are willing to teach out here and there’s a lot more patience which fosters a learning environment.
If you want to go rural, just remember it can be isolating and lonely at times, there’s always something on in town and you make friends with staff and get to know the town folk as it is a small town. There is some flexibility with shifts, but you will do a lot of night shifts as a result of small staffing pools. You do get paid well out here, lots of penalty rates (nurse in charge rate, afternoon rates, night shift rates, weekend rates and you get to claim “no break rate” on weekends and after hours).
I make sure I always book holidays to go home so I have something to work towards or look forward to while being out here, also you can work so many days straight, then have a few off in a row to travel home etc. All the grads that have been before me, managed to secure the jobs they wanted after completed their grad year in a rural setting (ED, cardiac wards etc). It’s an incredible stepping stone towards the future being out here. I believe it benefits you a lot being rural, you learn a lot of general skills and work with paeds and infants too. There’s a lot of autonomy out here, experiences that you would never get being a first-year nurse in a typical city hospital.
I finish my grad year in August this year, time fly’s by when you work full time. I am going to start applying for jobs on the Sunshine Coast soon, close to family. I’m so thankful for the opportunity that I have been given out here and hopefully one day I will return with more experience and can make a difference.