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Hi Steph, tell us about yourself How did you come to be a nurse
I was born and raised in Perth, WA, as the youngest of seven kids. Nursing has been my profession for about 20 years, but it was my second career. Before travel nursing in Australia, I worked in a bank for ten years. After moving away from the city to stay home with my children, I decided to pursue nursing as a new career path.
Since 2015, I have been working with HCA, taking on several short contracts in the wheatbelt and south-west regions of WA during my leave and quiet periods from my job in Perth. During a contract in Onslow in 2016, I discovered my passion for remote nursing, which led me to seek contracts wherein I could continue travel nursing in Australia.
Although I had limited experience in the ED, I had plenty of experience in other fields. I did contracts in Aurukun (Queensland) and Kempsey (NSW), but neither was particularly enjoyable. Consequently, I made the decision to stay in WA for a while. I have now completed five years as a full-time R&R nurse and have yet to venture outside of WA!
Throughout my career travel nursing in Australia, I have worked in over 25 different places, primarily at WACHS facilities, but I have also worked in two prisons and a Silver Chain post in Shark Bay.
The only significant drawback of my job is leaving behind my children and grandchildren each time I travel. However, my HOOMAN fur baby Ruby accompanies me on my journeys. Her name is Ruby, and together we have traveled many thousands of kilometers throughout WA in my trusty Prado.
The ever-changing landscape between seasons never fails to awe me, and I marvel at the beauty of our country. I particularly love the Kimberley region and believe that once you get pindan (red soil) in your blood, there’s no turning back.
Getting to know the people in the communities where I work expands my understanding of life beyond my own bubble. Being an R&R nurse has made me a more accepting and empathetic human being.
Currently, I am working in Wyndham, which was a “bucket list” destination for me. In 2020, while I was in Halls Creek due to Covid, I missed the opportunity to explore the far North. I was eager to see the Bungle Bungles (Purnululu), Lake Argyle, The Grotto, and El Questro. Unfortunately, the extreme heat and park closures in preparation for the wet season have limited my exploration. Nevertheless, I have managed to see many remarkable sights, with only El Questro and Purnululu remaining on my list. It simply means I will have to return to this area someday.
Travel Nursing in Australia: Wyndham
Wyndham offers an abundance of gorges and sights to behold. The sheer enormity is inconceivable! However, work in Wyndham is structured very differently. There are no inpatient facilities, only an ED. This means that if someone needs ongoing treatment, they have to be transferred to Kununurra, which can be frustrating for simple procedures or monitoring. Additionally, we work 12-hour shifts with no nights, so there is no one available to look after patients after 1930. Although this arrangement was initially supposed to be a three-month trial over a year ago, it is still in place. Consequently, earning capacity is not as high as in other locations, which disappointed me upon my arrival. We go on call at night, and usually, we are called in, leaving us quite exhausted. Wyndham is unique in its structure as the hospital also serves as the GP clinic, so many of our triage presentations are actually to see the GP. It would be a shame if the hospital were to close, leaving the town medically underserviced, especially since there are some exceptionally unwell individuals here. The next closest facility is Kununurra, which is about an hour away, but many people in Wyndham lack transportation.
During my time off, I mostly stay indoors due to the scorching heat. It has been consistently hot, with temperatures regularly exceeding 40 degrees and rarely dropping below 30 degrees even at night. The humidity is increasing, indicating the impending wet season. The intensity of the heat is quite unbelievable!
However, whenever I can, I venture out to see the sights. Although it’s usually brief moments outside of the car’s air-conditioning, I have truly cherished the opportunity to witness the beauty of our stunning country. Despite the current lack of water, the waterfalls may be reduced to rocks, but they still possess a unique charm. I hope to see the Grotto flowing before I head home!
How do you choose your placements?
When it comes to choosing my placements while travel nursing in Australia, I used to rely mostly on discussions with my consultants. They would suggest a few places, and I would select one or two based on location. In 2019, my consultant recommended West Kimberley Prison, which hadn’t previously used HCA. I was instructed to make a good impression, as if I wouldn’t—I mean, have you met me? Haha! Well, I obviously did well because they requested my return the following year and even asked me to go to Greenough Prison. From there this led me to contracts in Meekatharra, Cue, Northampton, Mt Magnet, and Morawa. The Midwest is a beautiful part of the state—not too far from Perth if I need to return home, but distant enough to experience the true outback. The stunning wildflowers are a sight to behold.
I have also provided my consultant with a “bucket list” of places I want to explore. These include (but are not limited to) Darwin, Alice Springs (or its surrounds because I must see Uluru before I die), and South Australia. This way, I can also experience a bit of South Australia and then head back across the Nullarbor, which is another bucket list item I aim to check off before I finish my travel nursing journey! I tend to seek longer contracts, as it gives the consultant more bargaining power. It also aligns with my aversion to change. After a couple of weeks in a new place, I start to feel more comfortable, and staying for a few months allows me to make a meaningful contribution to the community where I am working.
— Steph B
HCA R&R RN