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Remote nursing in Australia

Photo: Remote nursing in Australia
We know that nurses are an indispensable part of the healthcare workforce. They are essential team members, who play crucial roles in every hospital department and doctors’ clinics. However, many nurses find that living and working in a remote or rural community provides a unique and unbeatable work experience, as they can gain much more clinical expertise and knowledge than they would from working in large urban hospitals.

Rural and remote nurses have become invaluable members of healthcare teams in smaller communities. Simply their presence can make an extremely positive impact on the health services provided and the levels of patient satisfaction. It is also an excellent way to gain new skills which could very well become relevant and useful later in a nursing career. Another benefit is that nurses who work in rural areas feel they have the opportunity to learn more about cross-cultural issues and local customs.
Challenges faced in remote communities by nurses

There are multiple challenges which can present when practising in a remote community. In terms of practice, there can be a large diversity of clients with multiple clinical presentations, therefore nurses need to be generalists. However this means there is a lack of access to pathways which support specialisation. Some communities are unable to offer adequate resources and quality IT or communication systems, which could come down to a lack of management and consistency in the structure of the organisation (1).

On a professional level, remote nurses need to be able to manage professional isolation as there will be fewer peers and networking opportunities. Working hours may be longer due to staff shortages. Unfortunately sometimes this can lead to self-care issues and stress. On a short term basis, there can be limited opportunity for career development, but many nurses find they obtain a wide range of skills and knowledge that can be used to add real substance to their resumés.

Currently, there is an under-representation of health professionals who are working in remote communities within professional organisations, which can prove frustrating for communities and health professionals currently in situ (1).

Personal challenges many remote nurses face mainly revolve around the social isolation, which includes the distance from family and friends. It can be time consuming, costly, and difficult to make even infrequent visits back home. Partners or children can have difficulty in finding suitable employment or education facilities.

Working as a remote nurse also means a higher profile within the community on both a professional and personal basis, meaning boundaries can sometimes become blurred (1).

Why consider remote nursing?

With so many factors to consider, it can be difficult to understand why nurses and health professionals are choosing to move away and work in remote areas. Aside from demand, there are actually many benefits to working as a remote nurse (2)(3);

- Opportunity for travel. Remote nurses get to see and experience so many amazing landmarks and cultures of Australia. Regardless of which role a nurse is looking for, they have the opportunity to visit the mining town of Kalgoorlie, see the outback in Alice Springs, experience a country towns like Longreach in Queensland, Broken Hill in NSW, and Katherine in the Northern Territory.

- Upgrade clinical skills. By working with different and remote communities instead of the big city population, nurses experience and manage different clinical cases and conditions.

- Become culturally aware. By becoming a member of a remote community, nurses can increase their understanding and cultural awareness first-hand.

- Become part of a diverse team. Healthcare professionals from all over Australia, and even from around the world, join together to make up these remote healthcare teams.

- Earn more. Due to the demand for nurses in remote communities, companies are offering a higher pay as opposed to nurses who are working in urban hospital settings.

- Study. Some companies are also supporting nurse education by offering scholarships and transition programmes.

- Free travel and accommodation. Many health providers offer incentives such as free or part-paid accommodation and travel costs including for spouses and dependants.

Requirements to become a remote nurse

Usually positions are on a full time contract basis, and jobs are available in every sector of nursing. Individuals who wish to apply for a rural healthcare position must have critical thinking and decision-making skills due to the tough nature of the job. To be considered to work as a nurse in a remote community, companies require nurses to have obtained at least three years of generalist experience. Some employers do however offer orientation programmes and courses to prepare and offer support to nurses before they begin to practise (4).

Remote area nurses also need to be willing to participate in a 24 hour shift roster as well as being flexible in their working hours. Some facilities will require nurses to have a manual drivers licence and be able to drive a 4WD through remote environments in cases of call outs. Remote area nurses in a senior or managerial position can be required to provide or facilitate appropriate training to new students and members of the healthcare team as and when required (5).


Sources:

  1. S.A.R.R.A.H (Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health)
  2. Healthcare Australia (HCA)
  3. Queensland Health
  4. CQ Nurse

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