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Life as a RAN: A Conversation with HCA RAN Mary H.
Aged Care

Life as a RAN: A Conversation with HCA RAN Mary H.

Tell us about yourself. Currently you are working as a RAN but where do you hail from, and what were you doing before working with HCA?

My name is Mary and have been nursing for a little over 20yrs now. Originally from NZ but now live in Shepparton Victoria.

Before HCA I was working in a Regional Hospital in Victoria at Goulburn Valley Health as a nurse at first and then a Clinical Educator Facilitator for the University of Melbourne for Medical students for nearly 12yrs. I also worked in a rural hospital that was run by the local GP’s in Kyabram Victoria for 12yrs as an ANUM.

Leaving the comfort of a secure job was hard, but now I’m absolutely loving it and wouldn’t dream of going back.

I can imagine, where are you currently and what does the work look like here?

Currently I am working in a small MPS called Meekatharra in the Midwest of WA with HCA Surge Response. The Surge response contract was for 13 weeks which is a long time, but it’s doable. I have found the work is easy, the staff are a great bunch of people.

Due to Covid and staffing issues like most places the Hostel and its residents that used to be across the road, are now within the hospital.

A normal day can change from being busy with assisting with the residents, to seeing patients in ED or Resus, and to admitting patients to the acute general ward. It just depends on the day.

Normal shift work hours: E 0700-1530, L 1330-2130, ND 2115-0715.

Meekatharra Hospital
The Meekatharra health services include clinic and Drs appointments, aged care hostel, mental health and community health

If someone were to come over to WA, or in a MPS site, what would you say to them

It’s an expectation when you work in hospitals and small MPS in WA that triage is a must otherwise you have to use Emergency Telehealth Service (ETS). In that case someone else does the triage if you are not triage competent.

Normally there is a triage competent nurse on each of the shifts, but sometimes it doesn’t alway work out that way due to illness etc.

I would recommend if interested in coming to a more remote place like this, to come with an open mind.

Accommodation is absolutely lovely in Meeka and they even have a staff pool that can be used when it is nice and warm.

The Meeka Rangelands Discovery Trail takes you to Meeka Lookout.

During your career with HCA where has it taken you?

Other placements I have done with HCA I have done as a RAN. In fact, it was my very first remote placement as a RAN in Kalkarindji in Katherine West.

I absolutely enjoyed it at Kalkarindji and have since been back a further 2 times.

Compare the pair: How did you find working in 2020 under the backdrop of COVID versus now in 2022?

There have been big changes since 2020 when Covid ruled the world so to speak. Before going out to my first remote contract I had to quarantine at Howard Springs. Well I can honestly say that I enjoyed it and that I went back a second time 12 months later. [laughing]

Given current times things have definitely changed for the better in getting around the country and picking up contracts in other states with no hard border closures.

We’re often asked about skilling yourself to work in a RAN or Primary Health role. How did you gear yourself to working as a RAN and what tips can you share that may not be immediately obvious?

To work remotely as a RAN there are often some prerequisites e.g., REC, MEC, ALS, Pharmacotherapeutics, and Immunizations. HCA can help with these requirements through their New to Remote Program and Education Allowance.

Working as a Primary Health nurse was a wonderful job and you were also busy doing Annual Health assessments, Immunizations, Health Screening just to name a few.

HCA always made it easy to get to my contracts remotely as I don’t have a car. Not having a car was never a problem because someone else always had a car to do things. Wherever I go to work I often bake and share it with the staff I work with.

Royal Flying Doctors RAN
Working as a RAN means working closely with the Australian Royal Flying Doctors Service. Meekatharra has a RFDS base at the airport.

Any defining stories or moments from remote practice stand out to you?

My first remote placement was a real eye opener especially when I was on call with another RAN and we had to attend an MVA out the road. Young male with a number of injuries too many to mention. Long story short we worked on him for a number of hours until we were able to transfer him. He was in a coma for a while and I got to follow him up to Darwin in ICU. He didn’t recognize my face but he definitely recognized my voice. His family and boss were very appreciative of work done by the Kalkarindji team and that he now lives to tell the tale.

The outcome of the story was that we were able to get tranexamic acid in our Thomas Packs which can definitely save lives. Fantastic outcome.

What’s next for you after your current placement? Anywhere on your list of places to go?

What next for me is a job in Port Pirie where my son and his partner are living. They are both about to become parents for the first time and I want to be there because it will be my first grandchild. I will be killing two birds with one stone. A contract and getting time to spend with my new grandchild.

I would definitely love to get a contract in the near future that is coastal with great fishing.

I will continue to share with HCA my life as a traveling nurse. See you all out there.

Port Pirie SA
A Port Pirie sunset in South Australia


— Mary H.


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