It’s not really. Albany I mean. It’s a beautiful town. I’ve just been listening to The Pogues a little too much. Me and Shane McGowan have similar quality teeth.
I’m saying my goodbyes, au revoirs and sayonaras to my friends and acquaintances and it’s bittersweet. Two weeks ago I had a cracking time at a local funky bistro with a group of dear friends. I looked fondly at each of them as they stuffed food into their mouths, slopped cider down their fronts and laughed with their mouths full and I felt so much love. They are people who are themselves and nothing else. Who accept me as me even though sometimes I should have been someone else. But overall, they are my mates who I share a special bond with and love to bits.
We can’t choose our family but we can choose our friends. The old cliché … and although I am leaving my friends in person, through the power of social media I can continue to irritate them by tagging them in stupid shit or naming group chat’s ‘Bunch of knobs’ (you know who you are).
As I found out when I was finishing my degree on placement in the Northern Territory, it is fun to make new friends. It is a thrill to learn about someone else, their history, plans, sense of humour… I made some new friends only being over there for a short time and I can’t wait to see them again when we get back.
I keep telling myself all of this because I am feeling nervous about the whole new chapter of our lives. I have officially resigned from my job and Tim has given his notice for his long service leave. From the 10th August, I am unemployed with no job to go to (as I know at this moment) but have made a peaceful decision to let life unfurl before me and take opportunities as they come.
I’m a controller; I like to be in control, take control and try to not lose control. But that mindset really isn’t sustainable for a future of adventure and mystery; something of which I wish for my life and Tim’s. So letting the grip loosen and becoming more accepting of what happens is a lesson I’m going to learn and hopefully appreciate.
Thank you for voting for my blog in the Bupa Blog Awards, I got an email saying my blog has been nominated so finger’s crossed when they make the decision in September! We will well and truly be on the road then so I’ll be uploading far more interesting posts but I wanted to just check in and say Hi! and that I haven’t forgotten to keep you in the loop.
Aiight. Here it is, finally. I’ve been asked oodles of times from other nursing students about tips to study externally and without forking out thousands on unnecessary stuff just because ‘you might need it’. I also swear. I like swearing and swearing likes me so if you take offence easily, pretend the cusses are just latin. Moving on.
First and foremost, I am not an expert in studying, nursing, student psychology, budgeting or even how to study externally! These are my personal techniques which have done me well however this advice should not be taken as gospel. You are unique and will have unique ways of learning so see how you go and always make sure you use resources the way you need to.
Okay, got that crap out of the way. Let’s get cracking. Rewind back to when I started studying externally through Charles Darwin University. After the initial excitement of “OMG I got into uni! I’m a uni student!’ came the ‘OMG where the f*** do I start!?’
Start with Blackboard, the online learning base which will have all your learning resources, assignment details, uploading and ‘safe assign’ bits and a CALENDAR.
Assignments: I didn’t know there was a calendar but there is and I would HIGHLY recommend using it. Go through all your units and write down when each assignment/essay is due with the unit number eg. ‘NUR244 Essay due by midnight’. Go and whack them all into the calendar so you have a visual reminder of what assignments to be working on now and what assignments can wait. You can even colour code them which is cool.
It will give you peace of mind that you are working on the essay/assignment that is due the soonest. Sounds simple yeah? But it is so easy to get worried about the ‘biiiiig assignment’ which is due in like, 6 weeks, and overlook the 500 word post that is due next Friday but contributes to 30% of your overall mark.
In the Learning Resources section there will be all the learning materials for the topics each unit is teaching. Read through these, they are easy to read and contains a lot of the information they require you to know for both assignments and exams.
Text Books: Now here’s the controversial part that some may completely disagree with: Don’t buy text books. You don’t need them. They are insanely expensive, even if you do get them second hand; and getting them second hand often means you aren’t getting the most up-to-date version which the university wants. Pffttt; I think it’s a crock of shit that you have to have the most updated version because they are 99% the same as the previous version and 99% over-priced.
The only textbook I used a lot is the Clinical Psychomotor Skills by Joanne Tollefson. And even then I had the version of about 3 years ago. I only used it to find clinical skills I could use for my Objectives and Reflections.
When you are researching for essays, use the university’s online library. They have thousands of peer-reviewed research articles which are up-to-date and *cue angels singing* FUH-REEEEEEE!!! Make sure the articles are less than 5 years old and are Australian or address issues pertinent to Australian culture. There is a filter down the left side which you can choose ‘peer-reviewed articles’ ‘Australian’ ‘published between 19xx and 20xx’.
And you know what? Use Wikipedia! Use that amazing resource but NEVER and I mean, hand on my heart, NEVAHHH reference Wikipedia or any website that cannot be verified, I’m talking about anything ending in dot com. Because you’re right, you can’t verify things even on Wikipedia. I used it simply to understand the topic and content. The good thing about Wikipedia is that it is written in layman’s terms, meaning you can understand it. But back that info up my friend. When you have a grasp of what the heck you are trying to write an essay about, go to the online peer-reviewed research articles and learn more from them. THEY will have verified information and you can reference them. The main main main thing about studying is you need to understand what you are studying. Of course you could read and memorise then spurt it out like a parrot but in many industries, if you don’t understand why, what, where, when and how then you’re not going to be very good at whatever profession you are aiming to work in, unless it’s politics. But let’s not go there.
Referencing: Okay baby, this is my gift to you. www.citethisforme.com Please and You’re Welcome. Getting referencing wrong can get you butt-whipped in terms of grading. I once lost about 10% of my overall mark for an essay because I added the first initial in in-text referencing. BECAUSE TAFE TAUGHT ME THAT WAY – Thanks TAFE. Ensure you change the referencing to the style your university requires. I had to use APA but many use Harvard and others.
And here’s another awesome tip. Many online peer-reviewed research articles have a DOI (Digital object identifier) number. Copy and paste that into ‘Journal’ when you are adding a reference and it finds the exact article for you. Sweet as.
Exams: Freak out! ARGH! Nah, calm your farm. You’ll be fine. You know why? Because everything you need to know in your exam is on Blackboard under the Learning Materials. Go into the Unit of the exam, go to the Left side and see Learning Materials and read each and every one of the power points and do each and every one of the short quizzes at the end. Those quizzes are awesome and you’ll find those questions will be in your exam. The uni isn’t going to test you on shit they haven’t taught you cos that would be like, SO UNFAIR!
There is also www.quizlet.com which is really helpful to swot up on bit and bobs. Type in the Unit code and it will show quizzes and games you can play to learn. Keep in mind that these quizzes are created by other students so some might be a bit higgledy piggledy.
I also made a page of notes to look at while waiting outside the exam room before entering. It just kept my brain refreshed.
During the exam: Do all the questions you know the answer to. Bang those ones out then go back through the questions that you kind of know the answer to but need to think a bit more. Then finally, go back over the questions you have absolutely no freaking idea even if you were paid a million bucks. Those questions are moot and you might as well close your eyes and point to an answer. It is futile to sit and stress over a question you simply don’t know the answer all the while confusing yourself when you could be using the precious time answering the questions you do know and know 100% is right (or maybe 95% hehe). Often your memory will get jolted by some questions which will help with previous questions that stumped you. So keep forging ahead. And when you have finished the exam, don’t think any more about it because why? There is nothing else you can do. You can’t ring them up and say “I just remembered the answer to question 63! Can you change it for me!” so go for a walk along the beach or meet a friend for coffee and talk about anything but the exam. Promise me? Good.
Safe Assign: It’s a program to compare essays/assignments against ones they have on file to ensure students aren’t plagiarising their submissions. It will give you a percentage of how much is similar it is to other essays it has on its data base. Unless you have copied paragraphs and know full well you’ve cheated, the similarities will mostly be the referencing and the questions or lay-out from the uni; don’t stress if it says it’s 25% comparable to others on it’s data base, it will just be that.
How many units should I study each semester?: This is completely up to you. If you have a family or full-time work or prefer to not over-burden yourself with a full-time study load (4 units a semester) then knock it back to 2-3 units. If you are really strapped for time or the quintuplets you just gave birth to are a bit high maintenance, then whack it right back to 1 unit a semester. Keep in mind that the fewer units you do each semester will prolong the course duration so see if you can do at least 2 a semester.
I also left all my clinical placement units to the end (where possible) so I saved up my annual leave to be able to attend. This also meant I didn’t have any exams or assignments due when I was on placement because I had done all the theory units.
Online lectures/classrooms: I’m not saying this to sound like a rebel but I didn’t listen to one single recorded lecture nor did I attend one online classroom because I found they were as boring as batshit and I could do the study myself. HOWEVER, you may find them beneficial and if you prefer being in a classroom to study, then attending the online classes and listening to the lectures may help you get into the swing of learning. I know people who really liked them so give it a go. As I said, your study is all about how you learn best.
Extra activities: My friend. Listen to me now. Don’t waste your precious time on doing any extra activities that are not graded. They are a waste of time and you get no thanks for them. Unless you live in utopia where all your meals are cooked, house is cleaned, a Greek god is hand-feeding you peeled grapes and your feet are getting massaged by Ryan Reynolds (or female equivalent…Blake Lively?) and you have ALL the time in the world, don’t bother with them. Just do the quizzes in the learning materials which will help you remember the crap you gotta remember to pass exams. And essays. And any other GRADED stuff.
Family, Friends and Social Life: You are at uni. You are studying to get a qualification so you can earn decent money, have job satisfaction and pave a future for you and your family. You will have to step back occasionally to study or go to prac or just sit in your car with the radio turned to max and just scream. So when you start studying, explain to everyone that you will need help and support. Don’t feel guilty. It’s not forever and you are doing it for you and your loved ones. Hubby can cook a few meals each week. The girls nights can be missed for a few months. Real friends will support your studying and not make you feel guilty for not drinking chardonnay at Emma’s place when her 6th boyfriend this year dumped her. There will be sacrifices but they are worth it (and Emma needs to find a decent bloke).
Clinical Placements: Now I’ve only studied Nursing, I’m not sure about other degree’s but it may be similar. You will need to attend onsite clinical placements as part of your degree. Some units it may be 4 weeks, some 6 weeks. But overall you’ll probably do about 5-6 months full time placement. FULL TIME. Not half a day here and half a day there. Not ‘I have to drop off and pick my kids up so I can only do 9-3’ kind of placements. You are required to be at the hospital / nursing clinic / GP clinic at the times they set. Many hospitals have shifts like 7am-3.30pm or 1pm-9.30pm or night shifts of 9pm-7.30am. You need to be sitting in that nurses office at least 5 minutes before the start of each shift and you need to stay until you finish. This is because AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) require a minimum number of placement hours in order to register you as a nurse. If you are sick, make up the day. This is where having kids can be hard but ask for help.
I used to freak out before every. single. placement. My nerves went wild and I would dread going. But once I got there, was introduced to my preceptor and started the shift, I was as happy as a pig in shit. You aren’t expected to know everything when you go to placement, you are there to learn. Be positive, engaged, ask questions and be enthusiastic. Yeah you might know how to take a full set of obs but you aren’t going to say ‘I already know how to do that, what else can I do?’. Do whatever is required to ensure you are providing comprehensive and safe patient care. Always be supervised when you are required to be. If you forget something, tell your preceptor straight away. Always report findings to your preceptor, even if they are within normal range. Communication is extremely important. Know your student scope of practice and be prepared to say ‘I can’t do that but I am keen to watch’. Don’t ever ever ever risk your degree or the patients safety by performing a task outside your scope just because ‘It was busy’ or ‘I didn’t want to say no’. You know what I’m saying.
Conclusion: This is all I can think of to write right now. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. As I said before, these are all from my personal experiences and you may find you study completely differently. I am not an experienced nurse but I am an experienced student.
I’ve been back in WA for two weeks today. I’ve caught up with a few friends and my Mum, returned to work and entered a few short story competitions (finger’s crossed!). I greatly miss the NT and it has been difficult keeping my mind focussed when I keep daydreaming about being back there!
Life in Albany has gone back to how it was before I left and that is both a good thing and a bad thing. I’ve changed, as I keep saying, but Albany hasn’t because it didn’t need to – I did. I often think back to places I was living in the NT and the people I go to know there; what they are doing right now and if they are happy. Fortunately Facebook has enabled some of us to stay in touch which is a blessing.
So I don’t actually have any news or exciting things to tell you! The day I flew into Perth I got obnoxiously long sparkly nails which I got removed yesterday – for the sole reason of being able to pick my nose without scratching my brain! – and I feel liberated by typing one key at a time!
I am loving cuddling my dog Izzy. I appreciate her more than I ever have. We just snuggle into each other and breathe the same chilly Albany air, promising to each other that we will cuddle all the time. It has been the opposite with my cat Leila. We have lost any semblance of a relationship we might have had and she looks at me with disdain every morning I get up as if to say “Gee I enjoyed those two months you were gone”.
We are packing up the house and organising renovations because we aim to leave around early August to go up the coast of Western Australia and hopefully get to Darwin in time for my graduation ceremony. Graduate position applications for Alice Springs, Darwin, Katherine and Tennant Creek open on Monday so I’ll be getting everything ready for that. As I said, I have two excellent people willing to be referee’s for me so I doubt I’ll have a problem getting one of the positions. Plus my aim is to live and work in remote Northern Territory. Wish me luck though!
The next couple of months is going to be pretty quiet but please stay tuned because I will update regularly (with far more interesting content!) when Tim and I begin our next lot of travel!
Before I go, I do want to thank the Centre for Remote Health in Alice Springs, particularly Jessie Anderson who was extremely supportive and bent over backwards to ensure I was safe, supported, housed, transported etc etc. She was always happy to have a chat and help weigh up options with sound advice and a genuine interest in students having a positive and varied experience. I don’t want to sound gushy, however for someone who is away from home and alone in remote areas, having someone who knows where you are at all times is comforting. If you’ve ever thought about experiencing placements in the Northern Territory, give the Centre for Remote Health a ring, you won’t regret it!
Love to you all. – Rachel 🙂
P.S I had a few bumper stickers made which my three brothers have agreed to put on their vehicles! Here is one of my nephews, Archie, displaying it!
P.P.S AHPRA registration came through so I am officially a Registered Nurse!
My gorgeous little homey Archie John modelling my sticker!
It’s done. Or in the fine vocabulary of Vicky Pollard “I DUN IIIIIT!”.
I have finished my Bachelor of Nursing degree and now waiting for my registration with AHPRA (the governing body all health clinicians need to be registered with in order to practice [legally]).
It was a bittersweet ending to my time in Hermannsburg. As is usual with student placements, you just get to know the staff better and feel like you’re fitting in just a little bit more then *woosh!* you’re leaving. You say heartfelt goodbyes to staff you came to admire and enjoy being around, but they will soon have another student to fill your place and the merry-go-round starts up again; same moves, same motions, same things to sign-off.
The Hermannsburg Ntaria clinic staff, like the Tennant Creek, Ali Curung and Canteen Creek staff, are all a really wonderful group of people who I would love to work with in the future so maybe this student might return one day!
There were a couple of people in Hermannsburg who I spent time with who I will miss and look forward to seeing again when Tim and I return to the NT.
Ems is a strong and determined new student, who was a pleasure to sit with and rehash knowledge even I had forgotten. She reignited in me the excitement of new beginnings and a sense of self; ‘Why am I doing this’? Ems knew, she’s known for a long time why she is doing this. And being around her, listening to her story and sharing mine, I remembered why I was doing this as well. Thank you Ems.
And Lulu. Lulu is a magical dog because for some reason I have this crick in my neck and every time I move it, I hear a voice say “Lulu HAS to be in your blog! I’m not writing it down because I just said it. Lulu HAS to be in your blog!”. I’ve never been afraid of a midwife before but I have heard urban legends so Lulu, a rescued pound dog who has white fur that gets stuck in your clothes and is way older than she looks, has now been mentioned in my blog. And I get to keep my womb and any other bits midwives deal with. Lulu’s Mother is a midwife and she isn’t afraid to travel in her new little car.
Queen of the Hill!
This week has been a countdown to the day I finish. I was on-call with two RAN’s (Remote Area Nurse, in case you forgot) on Anzac Day and attended a few call-outs with them. I still love remote area nursing and working/living in Aboriginal communities.
Wednesday night, I went to a BBQ down at Fink River with Fran, Lulu’s Mum. There we joined a group of people and sat under the stars, chatted and enjoyed watching the little kids run around. The serenity was, in my opinion, better than Bonnie Doon (sorry Darryl). Everywhere I go, I make a mental note to come back with Tim and Izzy and spend more time there, get to know more people and learn more about ourselves, even if it is sitting quietly and being in our third space.
Thursday, we had a lunch together at the clinic and one of the visiting clinicians had made a lime cheesecake to say goodbye to a RAN called Marcia and a congrats to me for finishing. So lovely and appreciated.
This morning (Friday) was my very very last day as an RN student. I went over to the museum to have a look around at the history of Hermannsburg. I took some happy snappys and had a cool drink at the tearoom. Hermannsburg is beautiful little community with lots of places to visit. I’m keen to go back and see Jesus’ footprint near Fink River and just spend more time enjoying the area without rushing.
Everything seemed slightly surreal as I wandered around waiting for my ride coming into from Alice Springs to take me back. Unfortunately, the driver of the car who picked me up was the most rude, obnoxious piece of work I’d encountered in a long time. I don’t usually draw attention to negative experiences however I am managing to find the funny side in the situation. I’m very assertive and choose when to enter into swapping words, but because I didn’t feel like being left on the side of a desert road with no phone reception and a warm can of Coke Zero, I ignored her comments!
After 8 weeks, moving 9 times and working in 6 different facilities, I have met and worked with some of the most genuine, hardworking, loving people I have ever met. I feel so blessed to have had this experience in the Northern Territory and can’t wait to call it my home, again, but for longer.
I just went and watched ‘Gurrumul’ at the cinema. It is about Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, a blind Aboriginal man from Elcho Island who is a musical and singing prodigy. He has a haunting and powerful voice that can take you to different parts of the universe. I’d highly recommend seeing this documentary.
I had the entire cinema to myself and as it was playing on my mind, I thought I’d quickly check to see if my last two units had been marked. I squinted at my phone and saw I had passed my last two units meaning I now had my degree. I turned my phone off again and sat in the darkness, tears of joy rolling down my cheeks as the rich soulful euphony of Gurrumul’s music swirled around the theatre and caressed my heart. ‘I did it’ I thought proudly, ‘I did it’.
I feel compelled to write this. For everyone, especially other students.
I was chatting to a brand new nursing student today who is at the very start of her journey. She is still navigating around the learnline website (online university ‘blackboard’ with all the resources, assessments, grades etc), flicking through great big text books and trying to memorise everything she reads – bless her heart. She said feels overwhelmed. She stopped and looked at me; quietly, just watching to see if my expression changed… hoping to hear some reassurance that it was okay to feel overwhelmed. That things get better – get easier.
What did I say to her? Well, right now I am sitting in Hermannsburg with tears streaming down my face. I’m exhausted. Overwhelmed. I’m days away from finishing so I should be feeling on top of the world, yeah?!
I told the student that it is perfectly normal to have melt-downs. Cry, scream, throw something, yet keep going. Have a break then finish that essay. Go each day to clinical placement even though every inch of your being just wants to stay in bed. Write that damn objective, reflect on that reflection and post a discussion on the discussion board. Tick all the boxes because each day will pass and you’ll be closer to your goal. Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day … you get the drill.
We push through study and clinical placements as well as our normal lives whether it be looking after children and households, working, friendships, marriages / partnerships, family, hobbies, aspirations, health and self-image. Things can crack and make you feel like shit. It’s cool, you’re not the only one.
I’ve texted a good friend of mine with so many swear words and angry emoji’s that she has sent back a full text page of self-help advice and loving words.
Keep going. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, just keep going because it will get better. And when you get there, it’ll be all the more sweeter.
– Rachel 🙂
“She was never quite ready but she was brave, and the universe listens to brave”
NB. All photographs of Uluru and Kata Tjuta were taken at sites where photographs are allowed. No photos were taken where it was forbidden. Cultural acknowledgment and respect was shown throughout the tour.
I just walked to Piggly’s Supermarket and got some milk. I can’t remember ever walking to the local shop to buy milk. So that’s something exciting.
I’m sitting in a cool (both temperature and aesthetic) house in a suburb called The Gap in Alice Springs. Walking out the front door, the McDonnell range peers down at you, keeping you safe from anything coming up from the south, like South Australians or…stuff. I’ve been here two nights, getting in from Hermannsburg on Friday morning, hitching a ride from a lovely midwife called Fran and her pound puppy Lulu. I haven’t checked the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders #5) but I do believe I may be slightly addicted to dogs. I miss my dog Izzy terribly and experience withdrawal symptoms including the need to talk out loud to her in her special dog voice (when no-one’s around; I may be mad but I have insight) to pretending she’s on the bed with me and using a pillow to hug as if it’s her. However, once I get to have a cuddle and pat of another dog, my longing for Izzy is placated for a while and I can function. So I patted Lulu and that was nice.
Last week I spent in Hermannsburg, an Aboriginal community just over 120km west of Alice Springs. Ntaria health clinic is fairly new and has a team of health professionals including a doctor, Aboriginal health practitioners and nurses plus a receptionist and driver all of whom are friendly and welcoming. The clinic is located near another facility called West Aranda Health Aboriginal Corporation (WAHAC) so the staff of both support each other to provide a holistic service. It also has lots of visiting specialities like the mental health team I eagerly waited for on Thursday! (I work in MH and aim to do my Masters degree in it so any other MH clinician is a friend I just haven’t met yet.)
Last week was quiet in the clinic which allowed time for me to have a chat with the nurses and Aboriginal health practitioners, research some information online and complete some online study. It was lovely to spend time with different staff members and find out more about their role, where they are from and what they like about living and working in Hermannsburg. As usual, this clinic, like others, has both permanent and locum staff yet all the staff seem to enjoy getting together either for walks, BBQ’s or exploring the region. On Wednesday, we helped send off some school kids who were riding horses to Alice Springs arriving in time for Anzac Day.
Last night I got off the coach bus from a very long day exploring Uluru and Kata Tjuta with Emu Run Tours. We started at 6am picking up people from various motels, hotels and caravan parks then trekked to Erldunda roadhouse and wildlife park for a hot breakfast. I chatted to a couple who caught The Ghan up from Adelaide. Next we picked up more ‘explorers and adventurers’ (the tour guides refused to call us tourists because tourists are ‘people who drive badly and we aren’t driving, we’re on a bus’) from Uluru resort and went on to Kata Tjuta where we were given a strict time limit of 35 minutes to race to the gorge, take pictures then race back. The gorge was beautiful and it would have been magical to sit and meditate in the shade overlooking the green foliage being protected lovingly by a mountain of red striped rock on either side.
I had the impression from tourist photos that you could only get within a few kilometres of Uluru so I was pleasantly surprised when we got to walk around the base of the rock, seeing the caves and waterholes and touching with my own hand the cool hardness of a significantly sacred area for the Aboriginal people. Next time I come back with Tim, we will be able to spend more time absorbing the powerful environment and appreciating one of Australia’s most famous landmarks.
We had a BBQ dinner at a ‘sunset photo’ spot which our group had to ourselves for all of ten minutes before processionary caterpillars in the shape of tour buses synchronised their parking and hoards of visitors, just like us, flopped off each bus and clicked selfies, spousies, friendies and more selfies this time sipping champagne (guilty!).
Sleeping on a bus sucks so getting home, showering and sliding into a clean bed was AH-MAZING. Great tour, long day, tired student.
So I got my nose pierced as well. It was the first thing I did when I got into Alice Springs from my beautiful Tennant Creek (how I miss thee!). I’ve had over 13 body piercings and 7 tattoos in my time but this nose piercing hurt the most. So much that I yelled out a profanity while the poor apprentice was trying to squeeze the stud into the hole she had just made. Fortunately tattoo parlours aren’t notorious for policing language so I didn’t have to pay more and/or leave with 3 holes in my schnoz and no stud.
Five days left of this nursing degree and I’m finished. FINISHED! Wooohooo! But to be honest? I’m shitting myself. What if something happens in the next five days and I can’t get signed off? What if I fall over and can’t go to prac for a week? (I associate falling over with bad injuries for some reason. Other than extreme sports or 4 wheel motorbike riding.) What if the Ntaria health staff think I’m an idiot and give me a crap final assessment? Sounds all silly but the end is near… and so far! I will be very relieved and happy when I am holding in my hot, sweaty hand the 160 hours attendance record, decent final assessment and the last two completed objectives – all ready to scan and send to Charles Darwin University. THEN I will be okay… except then I’ll be worried that CDU will find fault with something. Okay, anxiety get behind me.
Am looking well and truly forward to going home and seeing Tim, Izzy and the ocean. I am looking forward to seeing my cat Leila as well but Tim told me she said she doesn’t care if I come back but to just send money for food. And not biscuit food, WET FOOD. And not just WET FOOD, Whiska’s Casserole wet food. And NOT only when it’s on special.
I am going to apply for a nursing graduate program at Alice Springs Hospital, applications open in May 2018. I have referees lined up (and really good ones too!) so I really hope I will get a place. I’d love to spend some time in the ED in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek hospitals then go on to do a Transition to Remote program. Finger’s crossed!
Hope you’re all keeping well! Thanks for reading my blog 🙂
Hello from my comforting friend Tennant Creek. It’s so lovely to be back here after my adventure in Canteen Creek.
Where to start? I know, the itchy bites on my legs are driving me crazy. I don’t know if it’s the flies or the mozzies but I can’t wait for them to disappear! Okay, got that out the way.
Canteen Creek was an experience and a massive culture shock for me. As I discussed in my last blog, I have changed. I have learnt so much in the two and a half weeks I was in Canteen Creek working alongside two highly experienced and great fun Remote Area Nurses (RAN’s). I have learnt to treat a person and look past their choices both to themselves and their loved ones. Be beneficent. It is human nature to judge and compare people’s life choices with your own. Compare the way they were raised and the skills they were taught against your own life skills and family culture.
But I, as a nurse, am trained and hold dear the belief of serving the community. I am trained to educate people and support them in the health and wellness. And I enjoyed doing just that in Canteen Creek.
As well as working alongside Cassie and Sini in the clinic, one of the highlights was providing influenza vaccinations to people in the community straight out of the ambulance on the sides of the roads and even at the front of the local store! We filled an esky with pre-filled fluvax syringes, swabs, sharps container, gloves, teeny bandaids and an anaphylactic kit and trawled the streets jabbing everyone who came within arm’s length of Sini and I (with their permission of course!!).
Flu jab ready!
Sini still smiling through the torment of the flies!
Our ‘clinic’ for the day!
At one point, we had a group of women sitting with us outside the store who identified people coming past who hadn’t had their flu jab. When each person had their jab, we’d all chorus loudly “Woohoo! Next!”
Cassie gave me as many opportunities to practice skills and knowledge as possible, always with practical “have a look at this and tell me what you see”. Following that was an explanation about what the condition was, how it came about and how it can be treated. I also got to have a go at certain tasks (within my scope of practice as a student RN) like centrifuging blood tests (putting them in the whizzing machine), performing heaps of intramuscular injections, using the online computer data entry system and generally being a member of the health care team. Sini was very patient with me, often in her side of the clinic, fumbling about and asking questions I really should have known the answer to… “Do you draw back on every IM?”
I loved sitting in the staff-room listening to Cassie and Sini talk about their nursing experiences. Cassie with her sharp wit and acute observations (with a ‘she says what we all think’ technique) and Sini’s laid -back, tongue-in-cheek recounts of life in a busy ED and remote clinics. Laughter was welcomed in this place.
One evening I was pouring myself some iced-tea and thought to myself “gee this stuff looks like urine”. Then an idea for a prank came over me. I snuck a urine specimen container home and filled it halfway with the iced tea marking the container with the word ‘trick’ (to ensure I wouldn’t confuse it with a real urine specimen! – unless a patient’s name was Trick, then that would serve me right). I smuggled it into the clinic in my pocket and waited for an opportune time. Then it came. Cassie had just seen a patient who had provided a urine specimen. Cassie left it on the bench asking me to ‘test for leucs’ (dipstick testing for leucocytes amongst other things) then she turned back to her computer. I pulled the fake urine from my pocket, opened the lid and walked up to Cassie saying “This wee looks a bit weird…”. Cassie turned and looked just as I sniffed it and took a sip! Cassie’s face lost all colour and her expression went from disbelief to horror to disgust in the matter of seconds! Her hands reached out trying to pull my arm away from my mouth while she spurted out all the possible diseases I could catch by drinking someone else urine! It was amazing that even in such a bizarre and revolting few seconds, she was still able to list communicable diseases spread via urine! I stopped and through my laughter told her it was iced tea, I had brought it from home to prank her. Relief washed over her face and today, after recovering, she said the prank was ‘hilarious’ – phew!
The clinic was often busy but I never felt useless or out of my depth. Cassie was acutely aware of what I could and couldn’t do but also taught me so my knowledge would expand during my placement. This might sound like an obvious thing to happen but as other nurses and nursing students would know, some clinical placements are as boring as batshit because you don’t learn anything or everything is outside your scope so you can’t do much anyway. Or the worst, there is nothing new to learn.
I was invited to stay on at Canteen Creek for the remainder of my time in the NT however, after discussion with the Centre for Remote Health placement coordinator Jessie, it was decided I should experience as much as I can in the NT so will go on to Ntaria clinic in another Aboriginal community called Hermannsburg about an hour outside Alice Springs. I am looking forward to that and my day trip to Uluru.
After my first night at Canteen Creek, I was moved to another house which was really lovely with brand new recliners and was generally more comfy. I was visited one afternoon by a donkey who stood at my front glass sliding door staring straight inside. I poked a carrot through the crack wondering if he might then leave. No such luck. Honkey (as I named him) stood and waited. I was unsure if he may nip me should I try to get past him so I rang my colleague to walk to my place and shoo him away. Honkey visited a few more times, pushing my gate open with his nose and waltzing on in. I no longer felt nervous around him so often stood next to him feeding him carrots and feeling sorry for his weepy fly-blown eyes and small open wounds. He looked sad but I don’t think he was; when we left Canteen Creek today, he trotted gleefully past my house with a pretty dark haired female donkey (known as a jenny, or jennet) in hot pursuit!
Molly visited often and so did Tony. Tony is the little black dog with the stumpy tail but since one of Sini’s dogs was also called Stumpy, I renamed the little black community dog Tony.
Tony is an odd little character. He showed no affection and engaged in very little interaction yet liked to quietly be around us. He always came along when we went for a walk and seemed to enjoy being a part of our odd ‘family’. He did have a bad habit of picking fights with the other community dogs, often relying on Molly to step-in and put out the fire. One morning Tony got cocky and picked a fight when Molly was nowhere to be seen. He had his back foot hurt slightly, some hair pulled out of his head and his left ear bitten. Unfortunately his left ear became infected, and combined with the red dirt and ticks plaguing the little guy, he was in a sorry state. There are no vets in Canteen Creek so I played vet as much as I could, picking off the revolting ticks and gently bathing Tony’s ear with all I had; wet-wipes and warm water.
Tony seemed to know he was getting helped and sat quietly while I carefully wiped away pus and red mud. I am buying flea and tick treatment tomorrow and sending it back with Sini to give to Tony and Molly. She will also bathe his ear and apply iodine if possible. He will always be a community dog but he is our community dog and I know the other nurses who come to Canteen Creek will care for him and Molly because they have in the past. As Sini and I drove back into Tennant Creek today, I told Sini I wished Tony and Molly were in the back coming as well and not being left there. I left two large bags of dog biscuits at the nurses house for them which Sini will ask the other nurse coming on to continue to feed them. Typing this, I have tears in my eyes but I know that Sini and the other nurses who visit Canteen Creek will care for the both of them just as well as they care for humans.
Sometimes it’s not the nursing or study that is hard, it can be other factors of life in remote communities. The home-sickness. The yearning to hug your own pets back home and tell them they will never ever be neglected or unfed. The flies. The lack of activities we are often accustomed to in bigger towns/cities.
But what this placement, in particular, has taught me is appreciation for what I have, how I was raised and the skills I have and am learning. The skills I can use to help others and hopefully teach a whole new generation. And those people passing it onto the next generation. And the one after.
This blog was going to be a ‘this is what I did and these are the photos I took’ but right now, I feel humbled…fortunate. I look around at the house I am staying in, the house the Centre for Remote Health have generously let me stay in again because I arrived in Tennant Creek early. The genuine support I have received from the CRH, Tennant Creek Hospital staff, CDU and the amazing remote health clinic staff. I think back to the precious faces of the little kids and babies I cuddled and helped treat in Canteen Creek and I hope they will grow up strong and fortunate. I hope they do.