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Student story: ICU nursing in Alice Springs

8 Aug 2022

Not even COVID-19 and flooding could stop CDU student Madaleine Ellsmore’s placement in Alice Springs ICU from further igniting her passion for nursing. She familiarised with new interventions, participated in difficult family discussions, and learnt from skilled mentors, plunging into usually dry waterholes in her free time.

I have been liv­ing in the Top End of the NT for sev­er­al years now and love all that I have learnt about the cul­ture and lifestyle up here. How­ev­er, I was yet to have explored Cen­tral NT. So, when an oppor­tu­ni­ty arose for a nurs­ing place­ment in the ICU ward of Alice Springs Hos­pi­tal (ASH), I was very quick to grab it.

The jour­ney down from Dar­win was an inter­est­ing one to say the least. First­ly, I got stuck in Dar­win due to a recent COVID-19 out­break. Because of this, my four-week place­ment was short­ened to three. The dri­ve down was awe­some; I stopped at var­i­ous sites along the way such as Kar­lu Kar­lu and the Trop­ic of Capri­corn. When I was all but 70km from Alice Springs, I found myself stuck once again due to flood­ing over the road (a rare occur­rence in this part of the NT) so I stayed the night in the lit­tle town of Aileron and got to know some fel­low trav­ellers. The next morn­ing, I final­ly arrived in Alice Springs ready to start the next day.

Though I was so ner­vous about work­ing in a crit­i­cal care set­ting, my excite­ment and eager­ness to learn soon took over once I arrived in ICU, ASH. Every­one on the ward was so friend­ly and keen to teach. I was pushed to think crit­i­cal­ly about my prac­tice and was sup­port­ed so well when intro­duced to new inter­ven­tions such as ven­ti­la­tion and CRRT.

Both the doc­tors and nurs­es would come and find me for any­thing inter­est­ing or excit­ing that came through, and the stu­dent facil­i­ta­tors at ASH always made me feel I had sup­port and a place to debrief if needed.

There were many highs and lows through­out this place­ment. I had to learn how to be a part of those dif­fi­cult dis­cus­sions with a fam­i­ly when their loved one wasn’t going to wake up.

Through­out ASH I could see that Indige­nous Aus­tralian cul­ture is cel­e­brat­ed, acknowl­edged and respect­ed. The team of Abo­rig­i­nal Liai­son Offi­cers work­ing through­out the hos­pi­tal were incred­i­ble in help­ing nurs­es and oth­er health care pro­fes­sion­als facil­i­tate patient care in addi­tion to pro­mot­ing a cul­tur­al­ly safe envi­ron­ment for Indige­nous peo­ple of Cen­tral NT and pro­vid­ing inter­pre­ta­tion services.

On my days off I would go off and explore the Tjorit­ja West Mac­Don­nell Ranges. Some of the nurs­es in ICU gave me some awe­some tips on where to go, and thanks to the recent down­pours of rain, I got to swim in places that are usu­al­ly just dry sand beds, such as John Hayes Rock­hole. Some new friends from Alice Springs played tour guide for me and took me to some incred­i­ble spots and down some slight­ly sketchy 4WD tracks. I have to say, I have fall­en in love with the land­scape and the con­trast of colours of the Red Cen­tre and wish I had more time to explore it fur­ther. I will be return­ing here in the future, that is certain.

My time in Alice Springs and ICU, ASH was so valu­able and fur­ther ignit­ed my pas­sion for nurs­ing and learn­ing. I strong­ly encour­age any nurs­ing stu­dents to push them­selves out of their com­fort zone and take on place­ments in places like Alice Springs. The expe­ri­ence and expo­sure you will gain for your nurs­ing prac­tice and cul­tur­al aware­ness is worth the trip.

Thank you to CRANAplus so much for this schol­ar­ship, it is a huge sup­port and I appre­ci­ate it very much.

Apply for an Under­grad­u­ate Remote Place­ment Schol­ar­ship for finan­cial sup­port dur­ing your clin­i­cal place­ment, or read about the expe­ri­ences of oth­er stu­dents includ­ing Kundai and Gynette.