What placements did you work (or are you currently working) with the Emergency Response team
So far, I’ve completed two placements over six months as part of my travel nursing in Australia. I did my first in Casino, NSW, and the second in Tenterfield, NSW. Both of these were in different health districts within NSW and just when I thought I had the advantage the second time around, having already learned the electronic system in Casino, I was introduced to a whole new electronic medical system in Tenterfield!
How did you find your placement both in and out of work?
They were both very different. In Casino, I worked almost exclusively in the ED with an occasional shift on the ward (there was one ward at the hospital). In Tenterfield, I worked in the ED and the ward simultaneously, as the ED had only 3 beds and the ward had around 8 functioning beds.
Outside of work was also very different. In Casino I was living in campervan village and at that time it wasn’t a particularly social place. I think people were working most of the time and I didn’t see many of the people working in other facilities. Tenterfield was very social. I stayed in the nursing quarters with three other nurses, and we added two more in my last week. We would go out and try the local produce, have coffee before work at one of the local cafes, or go for a walk around the town. I would often find myself just chatting away to some of the other nurses while cooking dinner in the communal kitchen so it was nice to get to know some of the other nurses who were also on placement. Some were from HCA and others came from other agencies. We would often debrief our days at work or warn the night shift about what to expect!
What did a day of work look like at your most recent placement? Run us through it
It really depended on the shift and which placement I was on at the time. If we’re going with the most recent, then I’ll run you through a day in the life of a Tenterfield RN.
Morning shifts were generally spent doing ward work, with the occasional triage in the ED to break it up. Sometimes, I was solely responsible for the medication round as it was common to work with an EN who was not endorsed. There were usually three nursing staff on shift, but sometimes only two of us, particularly on the late and night shifts. Late shifts were typically more relaxed in the ward and busy in the ED. It was a mixture of resus-type work and GP sort of stuff, with not much in between. I guess farming communities are like that! Night shifts were usually pretty nice. I’m not sure I should admit this, but once I did quickly duck to the nurses quarters at 3am to get some ice cream! So on nights like that, we got lots of reading done and even the odd bit of mandatory training. And there were other nights where we would have an unwell patient present that would require calling in other staff or the DON as well as the on-call doctor who I swear never slept! Speaking of, we used a combination of virtual doctor consults and the on-site doctor depending on the triage category of the patient. Sicker patients were seen in person.
How did you hear about the Emergency Response Team?
I actually heard about it from a colleague at my permanent job. He had worked in Tweed I think and was talking about the Surge Project, as it was known at the time. I had already planned to do a contract in QLD but changed to NSW because of this and because it was closer to home for my first placement. I wasn’t sure what to expect and wanted to be able to drive home on my days off in the event I hated it! I’m pleased to say I never drove home on my first placement. I did once on my second, because my mum got a new kitten who I just had to meet before she grew too big!
What were the key factors that compelled you to work these placements?
Um, I think their proximity to home was one. That was probably the biggest one, actually. I was also curious about what it would be like to work out in the rural community because I’ve always worked in large metro hospitals. Knowing that I was working in a place that desperately needed staff was a bonus too; the staff were generally really grateful to have agency staff with them, as I think it took the pressure off them for a while. Some of these staff work many hours above their FTE and would get called in all the time, simply because there were not enough staff. It’s nice to know you’re taking some of that pressure off them just by being there. In Tenterfield, one of the nurses from the facility wrote us a nice card and gave us a large box of chocolates as a thank you for coming.
What else did you enjoy about working these placements?
I liked going to locations I’d never been to before. It was fun exploring new communities and getting to know a little about a place. It was also fun meeting the staff who work in these small community hospitals. I met some amazing nurses, but also some amazing cleaners and kitchen staff.
How did you find yourself here?
Well, the circumstances surrounding the last placement were interesting and very much done on the spur of the moment! I knew I wanted to do another rural placement and I decided to fit the last one in between jobs. I rang my HCA consultant and said, “What have you got in January?,” and had a contract signed within 24 hours! Then I quit my permanent job the following day and hit the road! I already had another permanent job lined up but I had a nice gap in between.
Is there anything in particular you enjoy about agency lifestyle?
For me it’s really about supplementing my permanent job. It gives me variety and a chance to learn new skills. I also get to help out in a place that is often understaffed and learn from the staff there. I can share my skills with them too.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, what’s your skillset, and how long have you been working with HCA?
Well, I did my nursing training in New Zealand (Nelson) which is where I’m from and where I grew up. I moved to Brisbane immediately after finishing my training and completed my grad program in a public hospital on an orthopaedic ward. I then moved to emergency nursing and have been doing this ever since! I now have well over a decade’s experience (heading towards two…) in emergency nursing. I’ve nearly exclusively worked in metro hospitals in the Brisbane area throughout my career and also did a couple of years in a satellite hemodialysis unit. I’ve done a fair bit of agency work in Brisbane and the Gold Coast too, whether it be in public hospitals or private, wards or ED.
Are you planning to work more Rural and Remote placements? If yes, then where?
Yes, most definitely! I just have to get some leave from my permanent job first. I’m thinking of heading into QLD somewhere next. Perhaps Mt Isa or Gladstone, or maybe somewhere further north? I haven’t decided as yet and will probably keep my eye on the HCA Passport Facebook page to get a feel for what might be suitable and fun. I would also like to find a place with snow, so maybe somewhere south.
How do you find working with your consultant?
To be honest, I feel like I hit the jackpot when it comes to consultants! My consultant is the wonderful Stephanie and I can’t speak highly enough of her. I even got to meet her in person once at the HCA office in Brisbane. She’s been fantastic at sorting out the two contracts I’ve done (so far) and answering the many questions that inevitably pop up. I always feel reassured that everything will run smoothly when she has organised something for me and I really appreciate her efficiency and ability to communicate. You’re the best, Stephanie!!
I can see you’ve been working in Brisbane with HCA for a couple of years now. Share with us your experience working metro.
Yes, actually, it’s been 4 years now, I think, with a gap in between. Working metro was how I started with HCA. I enjoyed the variety of work I was doing and the flexibility of it. It was fun going to a different place each day, although not so much sometimes with short notice cancellations or changes of plans. But hey, that’s the nature of the work we do – every day is different.
Do you enjoy the flexibility of being able to work between cities and contracts all through HCA?
Yes, it’s great not having to have multiple different agencies for different types of work. Metro and R & R are generally the same when it comes to mandatories etc. so only having to submit one lot of paperwork is always good.
Any tips for someone keen to work Rural and Remote with HCA when they haven’t previously?\
- You won’t know if you don’t go. You can always start with a short contract and see what you think and then extend it if you decide you love it (most of the time, but not always as I learned…).
- Another thing I found important was selecting a facility to be put forward to work at. For me, I’m glad I did the contracts in the order I did them. Casino was bigger and Tenterfield was quite tiny with very limited services and poor support from auxiliary hospitals. I think you have to be pretty confident to be in a smaller place because you have to be able to support junior staff that may work in that facility. This often means being in charge and being expected to troubleshoot in a facility and health service you may be unfamiliar with. Start big and work your way towards smaller facilities. Once you’re a little more familiar with what it’s like to work in a rural setting it won’t be such a shock to the system and you’ll be better equipped to manage any untoward situations. This sometimes includes communicating with medical staff about a treatment plan that you may be uncomfortable with, i.e. they might ask you to do something that’s unfamiliar or not how you’re used to doing it. Or it might be something that your nursing experience tells you is, let’s say, ‘hazardous’. It helps to have the skills to ask, or challenge if required, preferably in a way that’s tactful.
What do you think is next for you? Where would you want to go?
I’ve just started a new permanent job so it’ll be a few months before I can take leave to go rural again but I’m thinking mid-north QLD. Next year I think I’d love to go south again to a facility that gets snow in the winter – I’m from NZ after all! I like the cold more than the heat and would love to be in a snow-covered village. Ideally, I would like to spend a couple of months working in Germany or somewhere but I’m not sure I can go that far with HCA yet! Also, my German is terrible and nowhere near good enough to work in a hospital – I was in Germany recently and instead of asking for a bag for my shopping I asked for a table…. yeah…. I need to work on my language skills a lot more before branching out internationally! But perhaps one day.
— Kate S
HCA R&R RN