In this Q&A Emma Haylett (2020 graduate nurse from tropical North Queensland) shares her experiences from remote nursing placements overseas and rural remote Australia. To read Emma’s article about her rural and remote graduate year GO HERE.

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The QLD girls arriving in Alice Springs after a big road trip

Why you got into nursing?

Let me backtrack to how I ended up here. During my high school years, we were asked what we wanted to do after school and how we were going to achieve this goal. I knew I didn’t want to sit at a desk all day (thanks school) and I also knew I had a big passion to help others so I thought nursing might be the right career pathway for me. After doing work experience on the Paediatrics ward at the Townsville Hospital, now known as Townsville University Hospital (TUH), I fell in love with the idea of becoming a Paediatric nurse and decided I was going to university to become an RN.

Remote Nursing Placements in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Townsville and Alice Springs

After graduating high school I eagerly awaited for offers to come out and I was lucky enough to be offered a spot in the Bachelor of Nursing Science course at James Cook University (JCU) in my hometown, Townsville. I personally found the transition from high school to university smooth as I enjoyed the fact I was learning information that was important to my chosen career pathway as an RN. I enjoyed the mix of big lectures also mixed with smaller tutorial groups for learning and discussion as well as smaller practical classes.

Remote Nursing Placements
Me preparing vaccinations and ensuring the cold chain is kept at all times – in PNG

Having these smaller classes for discussion and practice meant more questions could be answered and the learning experience was more personalised. These learning experiences setup my knowledge base for all of my placements and I felt myself becoming more confident and competent with each placement. JCU offers a really great range of placements all around QLD (and now NT – I’ll talk about later) as well as offering international opportunities.

In my first year, I completed a 2-week placement on Surgical Ward 1 at TUH and here I became confident with taking basic vital signs and assisting with activities of daily living. In my second year, I completed a 3 week placement on Medical ward 2 at TUH where my knowledge surrounding chronic disease was broadened and my time management skills were beginning to develop. I then did a 3-week community health placement at the Kirwan Health Campus in Townsville with the Aged Care Assessment Team. With these guys, I was able to see how the assessment process works but was also lucky enough to follow the Aboriginal Liason Officer, Incontinence nurse and even chat with the psychological team which broadened my knowledge of the services offered outside of the hospital setting.

Me checking a ladies blood pressure for triage at clinics in a village in PNG

This same year I also jumped at the opportunity to undertake a 3-week placement overseas in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The placement was an amazing experience that had us living in a remote village, using squat toilets and eating local food made by the village chiefs wife. It was a great way to engage with the Indonesian healthcare team and chat about different healthcare methods and structures.

Heading into my 3rd year of nursing I was lucky enough to complete a 6-week placement in Alice Springs after asking and constantly harassing and chasing up with the placement coordinator (thanks Elspeth!) who was able to secure a placement for me and my friend, although at this time it was not normally offered to JCU nursing students. I have since found out that this year they have secured four placement spots for 3rd year JCU students, which is great news! This placement in Alice Springs was the most amazing experience.

Delivering health promotion in a village in PNG

I learnt about an entirely new world out here in regards to Indigenous health issues and the extremely high rates of renal, diabetic and heart disease. I felt I learnt so much from this placement on a clinical, as well as personal level. At the end of my 3rd year, I did 6 weeks on the Paediatric ward at TUH which was also an eye-opener, little people are their own kettle of fish! It was also a great experience as TUH is big enough to get most cases but small enough that they’re all on the same ward – so you see everything!

Health promotion at a school in rural Indonesia

To finish off my degree I jumped on another International opportunity and found myself in Papua New Guinea living on the YWAM medical ship for 2 weeks sailing around Oro and Morobe Province. This was such an amazing experience where I was able to see some of the most remote locations/villages on earth. I delivered many vaccinations to children and also assisted with triaging, malaria testing, wound swabbing and health promotion. I would highly encourage other students to take these opportunities as they are amazing clinical and personal experiences that you will cherish forever.

Checking a ladies blood pressure at a home visit in rural Indonesia

Tips and advice for students to ace their clinical placements?

My biggest tip is to just get in and give it a good go! Honestly, give everything you can a go (within clinical competencies). Placements are the time to make sure your clinical skills are up to date and allow you to practice them in real-time whilst still under supervision and guidance. Don’t be afraid to ask your preceptor to slow down or explain things and if there’s a particular skill/procedure you want to do then just ask! Sometimes as nurses we forget to slow down and let students have a go but 99% of the time if you ask your preceptor will be more then happy to guide you and let you have a go.

Visiting Uluru with some nurse friends

Why did you choose Remote Nursing Placements?

It was a tricky decision at first as I was offered both Alice Springs and Paediatric ward in TUH and I started the nursing journey under the impression that I wanted to be a paediatric nurse. Whilst I loved both placements, I felt a pull to return back to Alice Springs. I believe my drive for adventure and curiosity is what brought me back.

The adventures I had out here as a student are lifelong memories that will stay with me. Visiting Uluru, riding camels, hot air balloon rides and swimming in waterholes were among the highlights of my placement as a student that were big contributors to my wanting to venture back to the outback. Aside from this I was also fascinated and saddened by Aboriginal health statistics in Central Australia and the lack of awareness there is within the general public about the health disparities affecting these communities.

I felt that my learning experiences as a rural nurse would be far greater due to the comorbidities I witnessed patients having as well as the cultural considerations that are intertwined with the healthcare provided. Overall a drive for adventure and challenges are what lead me back to the red centre.

To read Emma’s article about her rural and remote graduate year GO HERE.