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Keeping connected as a regional or remote nurse

Keeping connected as a regional or remote nurse
Photo: Keeping connected as a regional or remote nurse
Having been a nurse for more than 15 years, Melissa Gole knows a thing or two about keeping her mental health in check.

It’s especially important when you work remotely or in a regional area, as developing and maintaining social connections can be even more difficult.

Ms Gole has been nursing in Port Stephens, Newcastle for the past two years. Prior to that, she was city based, spending seven years in Sydney.

But having spent four earlier years in Newcastle, she had some idea of what she was getting herself into when she returned to a regional post.

“Port Stephens is a beautiful place to live,” says Ms Gole.

“I feel very lucky that in my town we can buy fruit and veggies straight from the grower.

“Coming back, I’ve found the joys of grass, birds, trees and seeing stars in the sky.”
But while there’s plenty to be enjoyed, working as a shift worker in an aged care facility has brought about a unique set of challenges when it comes to keeping active – both physically and socially.

Through COVID-19 into the mix, not to mention the regional location, and the situation becomes even more complex.

“After COVID, I was kind of reminded that I had friends when one of them messaged me,” says Ms Gole.

For her, social media has played a key role in maintaining the friendships she has made along the way, both regionally and in the city.

“I’m very connected on social media,” she says.

“I have friends that I’ve worked with and gone to school with in Wollongong, Sydney and Newcastle.”

As well as keeping in touch with friends, Ms Gole uses social media to promote mental health for police, emergency services, doctors and nurses.

“I connect right around the world,” she says.

“I share information, publications, jokes, memes and tik toks.”

She’s also taken up belly dancing, for physical and mental wellbeing.

“I saw a YouTube clip of someone who’s now a very good friend doing gothic belly dance, and was instantly attracted,” she says.

“It’s great for social connectivity but also excellent for core strength.”

Ms Gole also has a partner, and a son, and she makes it a priority to schedule in dedicated time with both.

“My partner lives over the other side of Newcastle so we schedule in some quality time to ourselves where we just watch movies and enjoy something yummy.

“My son and I do family movie night every Friday and he gets very excited for it.

“It’s important to make the time to reconnect, and make space for the people you love.

“You can get so caught up in working, especially doing shift work. Quality time is nourishment for your relationships and your soul.”

Ms Gole says nurses, especially those who work in isolated areas, need to think outside the square when it comes to finding ways to meet new people, and remain active and social.

“Find something in your area to enjoy, like a nice place to connect with nature, or grab a decent cuppa.

“Pay it forward projects, gratitude and positive thinking helps with happiness too. You need to keep interests outside of work.”

Ms Gole founded a virtual run earlier in the year called Run 4 Blue.

“We egged each other on, and we also made some new friends, so we then had people to do coffee with and go for walks with.

“There are plenty of opportunities out there if you go looking for them.

“Find a positive group of people to be around. Your tribe lifts your vibe.”

Exercise and nutrition are also important, as healthy bodies have been proven to contribute to healthy minds.

“Do things to look after your core. Yoga and belly dance have been great for me, but we only get one back so look after it. Strengthen those stabilisers.

“It can be hard for other people to understand what we deal with so find a good group of nursing friends with a wicked sense of humour.

“We’re so busy as nurses looking after everyone else, that we often forget ourselves.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.