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A dream come true — eventually
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.