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Student Story: Lightening the Burden
Ballarat-based nursing student Molly Gladman’s four-week placement in Tennant Creek saw her gain experience in the general ward, midwifery clinic, renal dialysis unit, and GP clinic. Confronted by the inequitable burden of disease faced by Indigenous Australians, she finished placement with a new resolution.
The opportunity to work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health has long been an ambition of mine. I am 26 years old and am currently in my final year of nursing at Australian Catholic University in Ballarat, Victoria.
I grew up in a small town just outside of Ballarat, and although I have spent the majority of my adult life travelling and working throughout Australia and various countries overseas, I still had very limited personal exposure to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, community and their experiences of health.
As my second year at university came to its conclusion, I began to seek the opportunity to undertake a third-year clinical nursing placement in an Indigenous community in the Northern Territory. I discovered the Centre for Remote Health (CRH), which is a government-funded organisation providing health-related tertiary education opportunities throughout Central Australia. I contacted their team who were incredibly helpful and willing to facilitate a clinical nursing placement opportunity on my behalf.
A four-week placement in April 2021 was organised at Tennant Creek Hospital with an additional spot fittingly awarded to Jessie Modra, a fellow Ballarat ACU nursing student. The two of us set off together as complete strangers to each other, and to Tennant Creek.
Our stay was accommodated by Flinders University and coordinated by their Tennant Creek Placement Support Coordinator, who graciously guided and supported us throughout our stay. Jessie was placed in the Emergency Department for four weeks, while I spent three weeks in the 20-bed general ward, two days in the Renal Dialysis Unit consisting of 16 chairs, one day in the Midwifery Unit, and two days in the hospital-run GP Clinic.
From day one, the inequitable realities facing Tennant Creek’s Indigenous community were blindingly evident. From a health perspective, I was confronted by a staggering burden of disease – many conditions of which I had never heard of – at grossly-disproportionate prevalence rates, which are often on par with some of the poorest developing countries in the world.
This inequitable burden of disease and its subsequent diminished quality of life standards were particularly evident in the Renal Dialysis Unit, where community members as young as 40 years old were receiving Haemodialysis.
Despite this, the most confronting revelation I took away from this experience was still the disempowerment I saw within the Aboriginal community in Tennant Creek. It was this sense I got that their voices remained unheard, and that some people did not seem to realise that they deserved so much more from life than what has been available to them.
This experience was truly life-changing and marks the starting point in my career that endeavours to help improve Indigenous health standards. I think it is incredibly important for continued awareness to be spread about the realities our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities face, primarily from the voices and perspectives of our Indigenous populations. Continued work placement and training opportunities available for students and professionals across Australia are great enablers for continued progression towards closing the gap.
I thank all those involved in making this experience a reality, particularly CRANAplus for their financial support.
This CRANAplus undergraduate remote placement scholarship was sponsored by AussieWide Transport.
Apply for an Undergraduate Remote Placement Scholarship for financial support during your clinical placement.