We chat with Kaylene who has had an epic journey, rural nursing throughout Australia. 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.

Rural Nursing

Hi, my name’s Kaylene and I’m an ED RN currently exploring Rural & Remote Australia and discovering some amazing places such as Christmas Island. CI is a remote island located in WA. I try and explain to people what life on CI was like but the best way I can describe it is to say it’s like living in a different world.

It’s a mix of beautiful beaches, the jungle, temples and unique wildlife. It has a fantastic community that embraces culture and diversity. Work is either at the Immigration Detention centre or at CI hospital.

Time away from work is spent cliff diving, snorkelling, scuba diving, jungle treks (complete with machete), discovering secret beaches, laying on the jetty listen to music, mimosas watching the sunrise and wine and cheese watching the sunset, witnessing the yearly crab migration, swimming with turtles, all of this and more with some amazing people. This please should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Where it began

I was born in a rural town mining town Tom Price, so I have always lived regionally, rural, or remote except for a small stint in Perth. I decided to study a Bachelor of Science (nursing) at age 21 as I was single mother of one child and decided I needed a career and wanted to be a good role model for my daughter I had always been interested in healthcare and as I live regionally in Geraldton looked at what options there was.

I was fortunate enough to be able to complete a bachelor’s degree in science (Nursing) through Curtin University, in fact my class was the first class to be able to complete the entire degree locally without having to move to Perth for parts of it. I have continued to study also having completed a master’s Nurse Practitioner Emergency, Grad Cert in Leadership and Management and I am currently completing my graduate cert in Emergency and Disaster Management planning to go through to master’s level as this is where I see my career direction.

My career to date involves specialising in Emergency, Education, Rural and remote and ln Leadership. I have also had the opportunity to teach ARC ALS at a National level.

Why and how you got into R&R

Having lived rural my entire life I could not Imagine working elsewhere. There is so much beauty in living outside of a city, and it is the way of life I have always known. What you cannot get in a city is that real sense of community so it was just natural this is how I would spend my career. Rural and remote nursing provides you with such a diverse set of skills that are just not possible working in a lager facility. Rural and Remote was always going to be the natural progression for me.

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

I have worked extensively across the Midwest region of WA including Meekatharra, Kalbarri, Mount Magnet, Carnarvon, Geraldton, Northampton, Dongara, Coral Bay, Yalgoo, Mullewa, Morawa and Three springs. Outside of WA I have worked in Mackay, Mornington Island, Mareeba in QLD. Queenstown in Tasmania, Nimbin in NSW, and Christmas Island. I also worked for 12 months in Fremantle ED.

 All these sites have been different in some I worked solely in the ED, others as a MPS (incorporating acute care and aged care), some are community-based settings and I have even worked in a detention centre.

Any places really stood out? 

There are a couple of places that stood out for me Geraldton back home in WA as this is where I started my career and had the most mentorship and have certainly contributed to the scope of practice I now have. Kalbarri, I made some remarkably close working relationships and lifelong friends who have influenced who I’ve become, and it is a beautiful town to live in.

But the place closest to my heart is Nimbin, it’s a whole cultural experience on its own but the team there are beyond exceptional and I was there during the NSW floods and saw a team pull together and put so much love and energy not only into the community but into each other, you can not imagine how much you need your team when experiencing something so catastrophic.  

The management there were great and supportive, and I met and became friends with some beautiful individuals nursing and support services. It is the place I felt that my emotional well-being to others was important as there’s was to me.

Biggest challenges / hardest parts of R&R / things that shocked you?

Nothing really shocks me but what is frustrating is often the lack of access to standard equipment such as bladder scanners etc. For example, having to make a spacer out of a coke bottle as due to delays in stocks there were no nebuliser masks or spacers suitable for a young child.

The biggest challenge as wherever I go, I am often one of the most senior nurses there, especially as agency, the teams are often junior but that being said they are committed to rural and remote nursing. The only other challenge is learning the differences between the state health care models, policies, and procedures, Oh and often how to set up an airstrip for RFDS to land, that was certainly new.

Best things / memorable moments about R&R??

Lifelong friends

  • Ability to mentor other nurses and share my experience
  • Ability to make recommendations to sites on improvements to processes from experience across Australia what works well in other sites that may work well in a current site.
  • Ability to travel during COVID and see Australia and learn about different diseases both acute and chronic, what you see varies from place to place, in the north you see more tropical diseases, in remote Aboriginal communities more chronic disease management, in detention centres mental health and drug addiction and everywhere trauma particularly road trauma.
  • Becoming part of a community
  • Learning to deal with anything that walks through the door, the strange, bizarre, traumatic, or routine there is so much variety in RR nursing. I have had to retrieve an acute stroke patient out of a fire truck on a broken scope stretcher in the pouring rain.

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

Learn about the community you are working in adopt local customs and become part of the community this is how you provide the best patient centred care.

Never judge your colleagues’ experiences, teach, and mentor wherever you go, you can make a lasting experience on someone

Do your research on cost of living, items you may need to take with you, access to transport, and accommodation.

Be prepared to learn all sorts of new skills and work within in systems that do not always have access to onsite medical – so continuous work on developing advanced clinical assessment skills, do ALL the courses, Immunisation, MEC, REC, ALS, Triage

Enjoy the experience, immerse yourself in your surroundings and get about and see what Australia has to offer, it is amazing

Advice for picking an agency/employer?

Talk to other staff, Facebook always provides some good advice on agencies and employers but remain open-minded. Different agencies offer various locations sometimes it is worth being employed by to it can open up various places. I love the agency I am currently with because they constantly check in on me and are super helpful for me that individualised touch is what I like.