Remote Nursing in Outback Australia

We chat with Lari Hall, a travel and natural wonders addict who shares with us a really transparent depiction of what remote nursing outback Australia is like. If you’ve ever thought of Rural and Remote nursing then you MUST READ on.

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.

About Larissa

Hi my name’s Larissa, but I go by Lari. I am a 33-year-old gal who enjoys getting out and about with my pup exploring, traveling, and seeing the natural wonders of this beautiful world, meeting amazing and unique individuals along the way. I have an amazing family and always enjoy the catch-ups when we are all in the same location. I have nursed since 2015 and have always wanted to go down the rural/remote pathway in nursing. I guess I have my aunty to thank for that, her wild stories of remote nursing in the 80s, single nurse posts in remote locations such as central WA … made me so intrigued by this exciting type of nursing.  

Why and how you got into R&R

As I said, I have always been intrigued by rural/remote nursing from my aunties’ stories and just travelling around Australia with my sister, seeing smaller rural communities and wanting to one day work in these areas. My first stint as a graduate nurse was in Broken Hill in 2015 which is a small town in rural western NSW, they rotated us around different areas and one was a remote area.

My first rotation was Tibooburra, NSW. A population of 100. These 4 months with the most amazing mentor Viv, who mind you works there still and was just featured in the ‘CRANA Plus’ magazine gave me the support and underlying passion to realise yup this is what I want to do aka remote nursing.

From there I did some tertiary work, agency work travelled a bit, moved to SA to work and spend time with family… then finally after more traveling settled in the NT in 2020 to pursue my interest in Indigenous rural and remote health nursing. Working in the Alice Springs ED first I developed skills in understanding the heath problems within the NT and some of the presentations I had never dealt with previously.

From here I worked in the prison system for a bit for some primary health care experience, then went on to my first remote community Elliott, NT for 9 months. I went in as an N4 new to remote nurse, I had my REC, TRAN and other qualifications attended in Alice Springs that assisted in gaining the position at this remote clinic.

Can you tell us a bit about where you have worked?

I worked in Elliott, NT a community of 400 mostly indigenous population with some cattle stations close by. I then moved up to Darwin where I currently still reside, just doing some casual work in the ED at the hospital, however I have done an agency stint with RAHC for 1 week in Wadeye (Port Keats) and 3 weeks on TIWI islands.

Any places really stood out?

Wadeye was defiantly an eye-opening community, the biggest remote community in the NT with a reputation for violence and fighting. Unfortunately, it’s a community with multiple different tribes and clan groups so therefore violence can stem from differences in these clans. My very short stint of 5 days there was an experience in which was mostly good, a very busy clinic and quite unwell presentations … you learn a lot there!

But on your days off you can go for drives for beautiful lookouts and isolated beaches making sure you have permission first. Tiwi Islands (Wurrumiyunga, Bathurst Island) was a beautiful clinic, busy and fast pace with a lot of call outs, but an amazing culture and beautiful people. Lovely landscape and great little clinic with a great contrast of experienced RANS, new to RANs, AHPs and AHW.   

Biggest challenges?

Well there’s definitely the culture shock when you first land in a community weather it’s the presentations you witness or the way things are done or the norm practices it can all be quite challenging at first. Such as experiencing a death in community and the way in which it is dealt with among the community.

Sorry business is a big thing out remote and sometimes can last weeks to months and you can have an increased amount of violence/alcohol consumption and aggression type presentations during this. The isolation can be hard at times, but self-care is super important. You just need to go into remote nursing with an open mind, passion and preparation to bear witness to things you probably have ever seen in metro.

Best things / memorable moments about R&R?

I love getting to know the community and being on first name basis, seeing them down the street and visiting them at home etc, you really feel like you become apart of the community when your working remote. There can be a lot of experiences that you would never have had until you go remote so the opportunities are endless.

Top 5 pieces of advice for a nurse going rural and remote?

There will be challenges so ensure you look after yourself i.e. self-care strategies such as walking/exercise, regularly catching up with family/friends, reading, hobbies meditation or whatever else you enjoy in your alone time. Communicate concerns you are having to your managers or people you can trust will assist you. If you bottle things up and don’t express concerns or any other stressors experienced, they will likely build up you may burn out and need some time off, so communication is key.

Make sure you have holidays or get out of community every now and then on days off, you can get caught up in helping and being around, however apart of self-care is removing yourself from your workplace and recharging/resetting. Remember to have fun, enjoy the moment, and take everything onboard as everyday is a new learning experience. Just know you are so valuable to that community and what you are doing is far more exciting/autonomous than your pals back in the metro scene ????

Advice for picking an agency/employer?

There are so many out there its crazy, go on the facebook page and join the group rural and remote nurses Australia. They give advice on which agency to pick based on people’s reviews and prior experience. I have been with NT Government for most of my remote work, however I signed up for Remote Area Health Corps (RAHC) they are quite good and don’t cost the clinics too much to employ you.

I use to be with Nurse at Call and they were great but unsure if they do many remote placements. Just do your research and speak to people see what is on offer. You could talk and research till the cows come home but at the end of the day I think your best to just pick one and trial it out. Medacs I have heard pays quite well and they do contracts all through NT WA remote. I have also been with them, and they seemed good.

Any final things you want to talk about. 

Get some CRANA courses behind you, get some extra tickets such as Imms, Pharmaco, ALS a bit of ED background helps aswell for clinical skills such as cannulation, ECG etc. Speak to agencies or other government bodies about the best avenue to go down to pursue the remote dream, because you wont regret it!