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Student story: Tess's outback adventure

8 Aug 2022

At first, flooding cuts Tess Wallace off from her clinical placement in Alice Springs Hospital, but after undertaking an outback journey involving joeys, truckers, and mates from her childhood, she finally arrives to a supportive Emergency Team and the ‘spirit of nursing’.

I had the plea­sure of com­plet­ing my last ever nurs­ing place­ment in Alice Springs. I am from Dar­win, study­ing nurs­ing up here with Charles Dar­win Uni­ver­si­ty. How­ev­er, place­ments are scarce and there are sub­stan­tial wait times for place­ment offers. 

An oppor­tu­ni­ty arose where I could com­plete by the end of 2021 if I was to trav­el to the desert, where I would be placed in the Emer­gency Depart­ment of Alice Springs Hospital. 

My dream is to become an emer­gency nurse, like my moth­er, and I could not turn down such an expe­ri­ence, par­tic­u­lar­ly to increase my chances of land­ing a grad­u­ate year in emer­gency. The place­ment was amaz­ing, but with so many sur­pris­es along the way!

My place­ment itself began a week late, so I man­aged to com­plete four weeks of place­ment in three. To begin with, lock­down in Dar­win and Kather­ine delayed my dri­ve, but then the floods came!

I pulled into Ten­nant Creek about 5pm, after leav­ing Dar­win about 8am (best not to do the math!) and was meet­ing up with a friend from High School who now lives there, work­ing as a Defence Lawyer for Legal Aid.

I sent her a text like hey, I’m actu­al­ly doing real­ly well, I might just push through to Alice Springs and catch you on the way back”, to which she respond­ed girl­friend, you ain’t going any­where, that place is flooded!”

If it wasn’t for her intel, I prob­a­bly would have kept going, unaware of the sit­u­a­tion! But we had a great, well-over­due catch-up and enjoyed Wok’s Up take­away at her Aunt’s, while bot­tle-feed­ing a res­cued Joey. It was a hoot, and I nev­er thought I would have such a night in Ten­nant Creek!

The next morn­ing, I couldn’t stop smil­ing on my way to Alice, until I hit the back­log of trucks and cars blocked from the floods – guess it real­ly wasn’t a myth. Spec­u­la­tion about an hour wait, to any minute now”, to anoth­er five hours wait was ram­pant, so I got out of the lit­tle Hon­da Jazz and trekked all the way to the top of the line – five kilometres! 

There I met a bunch of truck­ies who had been wait­ing since yes­ter­day with no chance of cross­ing today – the water was still rising. 

They were love­ly folk but being a young solo woman out there with no recep­tion, no water, and no camp­ing gear, the offer to camp out with them wasn’t that entic­ing, so I drove about 200km back up the Stu­art High­way to Aileron Roadhouse.

When I got up to the bar, all the rooms were booked out and the place was packed with peo­ple aim­less­ly glar­ing at each oth­er like what do we do?” After accept­ing my fate to sleep in the car in the carpark, I walked back up to the bar and the bar­man said, you’re not going to believe it girl, but there is one room that has just become avail­able, and we thought you would be the first to ask.” Enough said! 

I took the room and did not arise till 10am the next day – I was exhausted!

I final­ly made it into Alice Springs about 12:30pm. I was stay­ing with my friend since preschool, who relo­cat­ed to Alice from Dar­win years ago and is now engaged to a love­ly lady from Alice.

Stay­ing with them was the mak­ing of the trip, for I was able to come home to a com­fort­able place with peo­ple I knew, so the feel­ing of being away from home wasn’t so strong. 

On our days off, we would go hik­ing around Alice, or vis­it Glen Helen Gorge for a swim and burg­er. Giv­en the rains, every­thing was so lush and green, and I’m glad I got to see this side of Alice. It doesn’t come around often!

Alice Springs Hos­pi­tal is a great lit­tle hos­pi­tal, and I loved every minute of it! The emer­gency team is so full of life and sup­port­ive. Giv­en the cas­es that come through those doors, they have a great sense of humour, yet are so skilled and knowl­edge­able in emer­gency care, par­tic­u­lar­ly with their scope of care for a rur­al location. 

I have found my pas­sion in emer­gency nurs­ing, thanks to this place­ment, and will endeav­our to source a grad­u­ate year in emer­gency. Wher­ev­er I may be placed, I am sold on emergency! 

I feel like every nurs­ing stu­dent should do a place­ment away from home and [I] will make sure I encour­age all stu­dents to take such an oppor­tu­ni­ty if it aris­es. The Alice Springs emer­gency team is such a young, fun crew, and I felt that spir­it of nurs­ing’ my moth­er always talked about.

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.