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Student story: ICU nursing in Alice Springs
CDU student Madaleine Ellsmore’s placement in Alice Springs ICU allowed her to familiarise with new interventions, participate in difficult family discussions, learn from skilled mentors — and even to plunge 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.