A nursing career in Melbourne, spanning almost 40 years, has taken a turn into the heart of Australia.
Jan Gregor, previously an enrolled nurse in Melbourne at the Royal Children’s Hospital, loves her job; but a placement with Purple House in the remote Northern Territory (NT) community of Yuendumu, while completing her nursing degree in 2013, transformed things.
That first visit was so positive it led Jan to undertake a course with Flinders University Rural and Remote Health NT’s Remote Health Practice (RHP). The suite of courses provides health professionals with the skills to succeed in remote healthcare settings and range from a graduate certificate to a masters.
As part of her studies through the RHP, last year Jan completed a placement at Lajamanu. The positive experience led Jan to sign up for more short-term contracts in remote NT.
‘I’ve continued with short contract work, with two contracts completed so far. I’m currently preparing to go out again for three weeks to a different community, Yarralin, with Katherine West Health Board (KWHB). Then I’m returning to Lajamanu for six weeks, also with KWHB. I just love the people in the communities,’ Jan said.
Jan has embraced the challenges and rewards that remote area nursing provides. Becoming a remote area nurse meant Jan had to make some lifestyle changes, such as relinquishing her permanent position in a paediatric intensive care unit to work casually, so that she has the flexibility to travel interstate for short-term contracts.
‘It was a bit emotional making that change, even just the idea that I’m giving up my permanent position. But what I'm doing now has been exciting and gives me a greater skill set and appreciation with life experiences. The hospital will always be there if I choose to return,’ Jan said.
She has encouraged colleagues in Melbourne to consider working in remote areas.
‘I’d say jump in wholeheartedly, do it earlier than later, but do your homework first,’ Jan said.
‘It's fun, exciting and interesting work, and a lifestyle that increases your professional, personal and emotional opportunities. It’s just something that I feel close to when I’m on Country (in community). Even though it’s not my own country, I feel at ease and comfortable.’
She urges those looking to work in remote areas to ensure they are prepared, and aware of the skills and work required to be a nurse in a remote community.
‘The courses themselves – the RHP graduate diploma or graduate certificate – provided a lot of insight and background into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The courses give knowledge around what we can do for people in communities, how to respect them with cultural safety, sensitivity and awareness, while looking after yourself. The lecturers are a wealth of knowledge who have their own broad experiences working in remote locations,’ she said.
The suite of courses provides a foundation for health professionals looking to work in a remote setting. Placements are a unique part of the program – allowing students to head out on a remote placement with support from staff – because we know having a successful placement and well-supported experiences influence a student’s likelihood of returning.
The courses are studied externally with staff based in the NT, but have a national context and are appropriate for remote and Aboriginal communities across Australia. The courses are appropriate for both allied health and medical professionals, with topics tailored to each discipline.