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A dream come true — eventually

1 Jun 2021

CRANAplus facilitator Kathy Arthurs always wanted to be a nurse and to work for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). She studied nursing straight from school, in the days of hospital training. But it was many years later before she started nursing with the RFDS.

I always seemed to put up bar­ri­ers as to why I couldn’t fol­low my dream,” says Kathy. I had oth­er pri­or­i­ties, I was get­ting too old etc etc.”

After 26 years hold­ing onto that dream, an RFDS oppor­tu­ni­ty was thrown at her over one week­end. On the Fri­day she was giv­en a name to con­tact. On the Mon­day she was off to Alice Springs on a three-month contract.

So began a work­ing life of three-month con­tracts in Alice Springs, at least twice a year for three years, until hus­band Stew­art sug­gest­ed she take a 12-month con­tract to get it out of my system.”

That didn’t work. After the 12-month stint and eight months back in Bowral Hos­pi­tal, where Kathy worked for 28 years, in between her RFDS stints, she was off again. This time on a three-year contract.

By this stage she had added to her qual­i­fi­ca­tions, with a Grad­u­ate Cer­tifi­cate in Emer­gency Nurs­ing and a Bach­e­lor of Health Man­age­ment. That led to her appoint­ment as Senior Flight Nurse with the RFDS in 2013 – where she has been ever since. And hub­by Stew­art, an elec­tri­cian, now also works for the RFDS in Alice Springs as their Main­te­nance Sup­port Officer.

I have loved every minute of nurs­ing,” Kathy says. And work­ing for the RFDS: I can’t say I knew what it would involve, but it cer­tain­ly suits me.’

The con­di­tions that appeal to Kathy are being a sole oper­a­tor, spend­ing time out­doors, the peo­ple she works with, the clien­tele she helps, and the vari­ety of skills she has had to use.

You can be deal­ing with a birth in the morn­ing, intu­bat­ing a patient in the after­noon, per­haps attend­ing a road trau­ma lat­er that night,” says Kathy. I call it a mys­tery tour – you nev­er know what to expect.”

Raised in Wol­lon­gong and under­tak­ing hos­pi­tal train­ing to first qual­i­fy as a Reg­is­tered Nurse at the roy­al Prince Alfred Hos­pi­tal in Syd­ney and then imme­di­ate­ly launch­ing into Mid­wifery in Wol­lon­gong, it wouldn’t be until she returned from three years in Papua New Guinea that Kathy actu­al­ly start­ed work­ing post grad­u­a­tion as a nurse at the Bowral Hospital.

I was giv­en lots of oppor­tu­ni­ties in that time for edu­ca­tion and career moves, both clin­i­cal­ly and man­age­ri­al­ly,” says Kathy. My atti­tude was to take every sem­i­nar, every course, every train­ing and oppor­tu­ni­ty offered to me. And it stood me in good stead. 

That’s one thing I advice nurs­es I work with today. Every oppor­tu­ni­ty you get, to advance your skills, take it. You nev­er know when you’ll fall back on them. It got me to where I am today.”

Kathy became a facil­i­ta­tor with CRANAplus in 2009 . I knew about CRANAplus as a vital part of the remote area nurse’s life,” she says. It’s so need­ed and so good at what it does. I love its phi­los­o­phy and the edu­ca­tion it provides.

I thor­ough­ly enjoy being a facil­i­ta­tor. I feel I learn as much if not more than the par­tic­i­pants. I take my hat off to them. The major­i­ty of Aus­tralians just don’t under­stand how remote some of those com­mu­ni­ties are. And these nurs­es are on call 24/7. They can’t just walk down to the local café for a cof­fee, they do an amaz­ing job. They need to have a wide skill base and to have edu­ca­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties like the CRANAplus cours­es to help them keep up to date.”

Kathy most­ly facil­i­tates in the REC, pre hos­pi­tal and ALS cours­es and the Abo­rig­i­nal Health Work­ers’ courses.

One of my pas­sions is to encour­age nurs­es to con­tin­ue to edu­cate them­selves and explore all nurs­ing options. There are so many on offer, and with those extra qual­i­fi­ca­tions and short cours­es under their belt, they’ll be ready to take advan­tage of that per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty that comes along.

Per­haps a lit­tle quick­er than I did,” she laughs.