Ellie talks about rural nursing

Ellie talks about rural nursing

Ellie has worked as a travel nurse for a while now, bringing her family along for the adventure. She talks about what's great about being a rural travel nurse, as well as the challenges. Watch the video or read the interview!

Hi Ellie, could you introduce yourself?

My name is Ellie, I'm a registered nurse originally from the Central Coast of New South Wales and I have been working and traveling around Australia for the last three years.

So after I did my uni degree I ended up working in the emergency department at Gosford hospital, where I stayed for seven years before deciding to change things up and hit the road.

I had never planned to be an emergency nurse, but I found the team really awesome very supportive of one another. The opportunities to expand my skill set was really enjoyable and the pace of work and the variety was something that pulled me in and kept me there!

Where have you worked in rural Australia?

I have worked in La Trobe, Tasmania; Taree, NSW; Alpha, Queensland; Nhulunbuy, NT; Roebourne, Mullewa, Nannup in WA; Kangaroo Island in SA; and Alice Springs, NT.

What do you love about rural & remote Australia?

The beauty that is all around you! I enjoy escaping the hustle and bustle of the city now, and really love being able to have work take me to places that are just surrounded in nature. I'm becoming very fond of the red dirt and the landscape that is surrounding where you work.

Why did you choose to become a rural/remote nurse?

Initially I wanted to do some exploring around Australia, there was a lot of states I'd never been to. I didn't have a bucket of cash, and so nursing on the road as I was traveling was a way to pay for the traveling, really. But I soon found that I really enjoyed the balance of working and traveling.

Work took me to some places that I would never have been to otherwise - towns I would have skipped through, and ended staying there for six weeks for work. It allowed me to appreciate  that town and that spot in Australia a lot more. You get to understand the lay of the land, and that little part of the country, a lot more than if you've just got your tourist hat on and drive through in a day or two.

I think also traveling full-time is quite tiring, sounds really silly to say, but constantly planning where you're going to go, what you're going to do. So being able to switch in and out of that, and put my 'work' hat on and be able to work for a bit allows me to sit back and reset and then get excited for the next leg of travel. And you get all the hot tips from the locals - they tell you where everything is.

How did Mediserve help you achieve your goal? What assistance did they provide?

I think the ease of it really caught me by surprise. I was a little bit fearful when we hit the road that I wouldn't be able to travel and work, and make it work. So Mediserve have been great with helping me line up work as I've been traveling. Just telling them which direction I'm heading in and then letting them do all the legwork of finding out where has availability and saying, "there are three hospitals that want you, where do you want to work?" Having the options just placed before you made it really easy.

With every contract they sorted out the travel to and from, and the accommodation. They took care of all the logistics behind getting to the contract and where I was staying. "This is how you're getting there, this is where you're staying, this is who you'll see at the hospital." Very seamless.

Were there any challenges that came up that Mediserve helped you with?

We were heading up to do a Cape York adventure, and then our engine blew up in our car! So we were stuck there, and I hadn't planned to work in Alpha, Queensland. I didn't have any work lined up, needed to make a lot of cash quickly to pay for the engine so we could get back on the road.

I called Mediserve, told them what had happened, and within a week I had a contract lined up and I was working! Even in that situation, they were able to help me get work to be able to pay for the engine. That was very helpful!

What was it like working closely with a smaller community?

It's always been an enjoyable experience, jumping in to working in a hospital setting. In small communities you get to know who's who really quickly and how everyone's connected to each other. Getting invited on mail runs in the outback, and hike down in Tassie, but they've always been very welcoming and inclusive.

Did working as a remote/rural nurse broaden your professional experience?

Very much so! It was very different from tertiary hospitals. Someone comes in, and it's you and one other nurse and there's no doctor on site, you're stretched to include assessment skills that you've never previously had to include. You find that you learn a lot more because you have to, so that you can care for whoever needs help and whatever comes through the door.  

A really simple thing, such as ear and eye assessment in the hospital -  if someone came in with a sick kid with some sore ears you'd send them down to the ear room and the doctor would assess them behind a close door. You'd never see what happens. But [as a rural nurse you may be] required to assess a child's ear and work out what's going on inside, and assess their eyes, and even a more thorough breathing respiratory assessment is often required as well.  I think in a lot of rural settings they use telehealth -  so you are the ears and the eyes of the doctor, you've got to really broaden and expand your assessment and research skills.

Practically I've learned how to suture, which was something I'd never previously needed to know how to do. Even just coordinating patient retrievals and getting people out when they need to get out to bigger facilities is something as well that I've never previously done.

Do rural & remote patients differ from patients in urban areas?

Yes and no. I think I find that people in rural and remote setting tend to be sicker when they come in. People in metro settings will often go to the hospital for the slightest things and expect a streamline of services - imaging, pathology, medications, assessment - they can all be done.

But in a lot of rural and remote settings you don't have patient imaging; you may not have the facilities to process bloods; and so the people who live and work there are aware of what going to hospital might mean. They often they put off going just in case it gets better by itself. So often you'd have people come into the hospital who were sicker than you were used to seeing. Caring for those people within those settings where you're not able to take their bloods and see what their their levels are because you don't have the facilities to do that - really, you've got to adapt to what you've got in each facility to be able to care for them as well as you can.

What were the challenges of rural nursing?

For me the challenges have been broadening my scope. That was a little bit scary at first, to realise that the buck stopped with me.  The time factor is a big thing too, but I think you do get used to that and you take it into account with your assessment skills. You learn quickly when people need to be retrieved out, as opposed to 'sit and wait' to see if they improve.

Being socially isolated from friends and family was a tricky one.

Would you recommend Mediserve as a rural nursing agency?

I would recommend Mediserve to other nurses. As an agency they're great!

If I ever do a contract with them I find that they they do get back to you, their communications great, their organisation of your travel is great. Can't fault them!

More about rural nursing

How do I start my rural nursing career with Mediserve?

What do you need to get started?

  • You need to have at least 1-2 years’ experience as a nurse
  • If a Registered or Enrolled Nurse, have AHPRA Australian nurses board registration
  • You need to have working rights in Australia
    Then, it's easy to get started! Just fill out the registration form at www.mediserve.com.au/register.