Connie Hierl

24 Apr 2016

This is Con­nie’s stu­dent schol­ar­ship report fol­low­ing her place­ment at Beswick (Wugu­larr) in the North­ern Territory. 


Hav­ing learnt about indige­nous health and pri­ma­ry health­care with­in my nurs­ing degree, I was famil­iar with the issues of health dis­par­i­ties and the fac­tors that affect the health and well­be­ing in this pop­u­la­tion. How­ev­er, I did not realise how invalu­able my expe­ri­ence in a remote com­mu­ni­ty set­ting would be. 

I recent­ly com­plet­ed my two-week stu­dent-nurs­ing place­ment in Beswick (Wugu­larr) in the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry, a small indige­nous com­mu­ni­ty 110 kilo­me­tres south-east of Kather­ine. Being able to con­sol­i­date the­o­ry into prac­tice has enriched my under­stand­ing of pri­ma­ry health­care; and the impor­tance of part­ner­ships amongst the pri­ma­ry health­care team, allied health and out­reach ser­vices. In addi­tion, the peo­ple were very wel­com­ing and I found that indige­nous folk have an admirable open­ness and non-judge­men­tal nature; I instant­ly felt a strong sense of com­mu­ni­ty spir­it and bond between fam­i­ly and land. 

Being able to con­sol­i­date the­o­ry into prac­tice has enriched my under­stand­ing of pri­ma­ry healthcare…

As a result, my place­ment has been tru­ly invalu­able, both on a per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al lev­el. The remote area nurs­es at the Beswick Health Cen­tre, a com­mu­ni­ty-con­trolled Sun­rise Health Ser­vice pre­dom­i­nant­ly facil­i­tat­ed my learn­ing. These nurs­es were inspi­ra­tional. Their clin­i­cal exper­tise, aware­ness and val­ue of indige­nous cul­ture along with their desire to opti­mise health and well­ness with­in their com­mu­ni­ty was dis­played with each and every client encounter, hence con­tribut­ing to clos­ing the gap between indige­nous and non-indige­nous Aus­tralians. Through their guid­ance and sup­port I feel more con­fi­dent and com­pe­tent in my clin­i­cal and assess­ment skills, and was able to expe­ri­ence many new learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that can­not be obtained in an acute set­ting. With­in a remote set­ting, nurs­es are more autonomous and need to be flex­i­ble in an ever-chang­ing envi­ron­ment. I found this aspect of remote nurs­ing extreme­ly inter­est­ing as I was able to con­sult with dif­fer­ent age groups, rang­ing from assess­ing the devel­op­ment of an infant to the com­plex­i­ties of chron­ic dis­ease process­es in old­er age groups. 

With­in a remote set­ting, nurs­es are more autonomous and need to be flex­i­ble in an ever-chang­ing environment.

With­in this time I was also for­tu­nate enough to be present dur­ing health screen­ings and con­sul­ta­tions by vis­it­ing health­care pro­fes­sion­als. A vis­it­ing mid­wife from the town of Kather­ine taught me the impor­tance of phys­i­cal, men­tal, social and envi­ron­men­tal assess­ments dur­ing the ante­na­tal peri­od and the val­ue of health edu­ca­tion with the use of cul­tur­al­ly appro­pri­ate learn­ing tools. I learnt about the impli­ca­tions of mid­dle ear and throat infec­tions from the Ear, Nose and Throat team and how they assess for hear­ing loss in adults and chil­dren, and gained insight into the impor­tant role of the Volatile Sub­stance Abuse team. I also gained some insight into indige­nous cul­ture (only scratch­ing the sur­face) by talk­ing to the Abo­rig­i­nal Health Prac­ti­tion­ers and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, and I felt priv­i­leged to per­son­al­ly meet one of Wugularr’s most famous artists.

I would like to extend a warm thank you to Sun­rise Health Ser­vices for facil­i­tat­ing this awe­some learn­ing expe­ri­ence and to CRANAplus for my remote schol­ar­ship, which has helped me to afford such a won­der­ful expe­ri­ence. It will for­ev­er be ingrained in my mem­o­ry.

I strong­ly rec­om­mend stu­dents pur­sue a remote place­ment such as this; the expe­ri­ence has enriched my knowl­edge and exceed­ed my expectations.