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Flying high and delving deep

4 Dec 2015

Dianne Few shares insights into the diverse roles and locations that working as a remote area nurse has to offer.

Fly­ing high and delv­ing deep have all been in a day’s work for Reg­is­tered Nurse Dianne Few, who counts work in prison health, with asy­lum seek­ers, on gaslines and oil rigs, and in remote Aus­tralian com­mu­ni­ties among her var­ied employ­ment situations.

My hus­band and friends think that I do real­ly excit­ing work,” she said. I always dis­agree: I say I do nor­mal work in inter­est­ing environments.”

It was while work­ing FIFO for more than two years in the gas pipeline fields in Queens­land that Dianne dug deep. I qual­i­fied for under- ground min­ing work and under­took mul­ti­ple relief con­tracts at mines in Queens­land,” she said. The deep­est I’ve been under­ground is 1240m I believe: very dark but very interesting.

I nev­er thought that as a nurse my uni­form would con­sist of hi-vis, hard hat, steel caps and safe­ty glasses.”

Over the past year, Dianne has worked on gas and oil explo­ration rigs in Papua New Guinea.

It’s absolute­ly amaz­ing: the coun­try, the peo­ple, the work places,” she said. I fly into the coun­try and then take a chop­per to the land-based rig where I stay for the entire swing of usu­al­ly 21daysbutiscangoupto42.

Dianne said that, on a nurs­ing lev­el she found it very hum­bling” to realise that the very basic care she can pro­vide is often the best care that the locals have ever had.

The work pro­vides won­der­ful and reward­ing expe­ri­ences on a dai­ly basis,” she said.

In addi­tion to local employ­ees, staff come from many coun­tries includ­ing Aus­tralia, USA, Cana­da, Philip­pines, Thai­land, UK, France, NZ, Spain and Russia.

Dianne’s clin­ic is a pur­pose­ly fit­ted out ship­ping con­tain­er, as is her accommodation.

There is no radio, TV, Fox­tel or any oth­er enter­tain­ment com­forts,” she said. We expats sur­vive on shar­ing movies and TV series on com­put­er hard drives.

The food is an expe­ri­ence. The avail­abil­i­ty of pork and rice for break­fast, lunch and din­ner, has almost seen me eat my last pork.”

Dianne said that she and her back-to-back were the only nurs­es work­ing in this envi­ron­ment in the coun­try. We are both Aussie expats who’ve worked on the gas pipelines togeth­er in the past so we get on extreme­ly well,” she said. But we are nev­er on site at the same time. If we are lucky, we might see each oth­er on a very remote airstrip or the local air­port when we are com­ing from and to the site.”

Dianne said the clin­ic was reput­ed­ly the best in the coun­try and they were very proud of that.

The best part about the job are the inter­ac­tions with peo­ple that I would nev­er have met under oth­er cir­cum­stances,” she said.

Work­ing on a rig has its moments. Many locals don’t like wear­ing boots or any Per­son­al Pro­tec­tion Equip­ment (PPE) so dai­ly inspec­tions of hands, feet and socks have become stan­dard to ensure com­pli­ance safe­ty and that no one has any injuries they are try­ing to hide from not wear­ing appro­pri­ate footwear.

Trop­i­cal ulcers are very com­mon amongst the local pop­u­la­tion and often the patient has been suf­fer­ing with them for months. When they attend the clin­ic, the prob­lem can often be total­ly resolved in 7 – 10 days with med­ica­tion and dai­ly dress­ings. The dress­ings usu­al­ly con­sist of Jelonet, Melo­lite and Hypafix – which are very white in appear­ance. The locals show off the dress­ings almost like a badge of hon­our and seem very proud of them. I had nev­er seen peo­ple take such good care of their dress­ings till then and they will sud­den­ly wear shorts when not on duty so all can see.”

While the rig is being moved, Dianne is cur­rent­ly doing relief work in remote Aus­tralian loca­tions, includ­ing the Pibara where Dianne worked with the West­ern Aus­tralia Coun­ty Health Ser­vice (WACHS) and had unlim­it­ed sup­port from the Roy­al Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice (RFDS).

For the first time I worked close­ly with the RFDS and although I always respect­ed what they did and how they did it, I must admit that the respect I have for the organ­i­sa­tion and indi­vid­u­als at the coal face, has increased 10-fold,” she said. I worked in a sin­gle nurse post and found sup­port at the end of the phone 24/7 to be amaz­ing. Most con­tact was via tele­phone con­sul­ta­tion and issues were sort­ed out extreme­ly well and easily.”

At the end of her sec­ond­ment, Dianne and the incum­bent nurse worked togeth­er dur­ing a foot­ball car­ni­val in the town, as it was an extreme­ly busy time with dis­lo­cat­ed shoul­ders, a bro­ken foot and oth­er injuries and illnesses.

We had a few peo­ple with gas­tro and were able to final­ly iden­ti­fy the like­ly cause to be kan­ga­roo tail stew that some­one had brought to town,” she said. We had to con­tact the local police and ask them to track it down and dis­pose of it before we had oth­ers come down with gas­tro too.”

Dianne plans to under­take the CRANAplus Prac­ti­cal Skills Course in Cairns at the end of Sep­tem­ber. She pre­vi­ous­ly under­took the four- day Emer­gency Response Train­ing Course at Napa Napa in Port Moresby.

I have enjoyed every post that I’ve been to and the expe­ri­ences are so dif­fer­ent to work­ing in the city,” she said. I doubt I could or would return to a met­ro­pol­i­tan hos­pi­tal set­ting now. My daugh­ter Lau­ren is an RN (2nd year out) and has seen the vari­ety of roles and jobs I’ve under­tak­en and this has giv­en her a greater aware­ness of the wide scope of prac­tice for Nurses.

Luck­i­ly for me I like fly­ing as I have had so many flights in the last cou­ple of years. And I’ve just start­ed fly­ing lessons to get my pilot’s licence.”

I would also cer­tain­ly rec­om­mend this type of work to any­one want­i­ng to seek any kind of change. At the end of the day though it is the peo­ple that make the jobs inter­est­ing and enjoyable.”