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CRANAcast taster: CRANAcast with Kep­pel Schafer

14 Aug 2023

In episode 18 of CRANAcast, Keppel Schafer RN, RM and Queensland “country boy at heart” shares his top drawcards of working in remote health, along with stories from his last 12 years volunteering as a CRANAplus course facilitator for Maternity Emergency Care and Midwifery Upskilling courses.

Jim Jim Falls, NT. Ron­ny­bas — stock​.adobe​.com.

Heli­copter retrievals in loca­tions with­out run­ways,
and oth­er remote drawcards

Kep­pel: I can remem­ber back to when I was work­ing in Jabiru, this was before there was a res­cue heli­copter ser­vice in the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry. If some­body fell over in the bot­tom of Jim Jim Falls or But­ter­fly Gorge or some­where amaz­ing in Kakadu, the clin­ic would co-opt one of those Robin­son tourist helicopters. 

The nurs­es would fly off and go and pick the per­son up, and bring them back to the clin­ic for treat­ment while we arranged a fixed-wing back to Dar­win. That type of expe­ri­ence is not some­thing you get in a big city hospital. 

Then, you would come togeth­er in the evening and you would dri­ve, after you had closed the clin­ic for the day, to Ubirr Rock and watch the sun­set over East Arn­hem Land hav­ing walked past these amaz­ing, thou­sands and thou­sands of year-old pieces of art on the rock faces as you climb up – quite incred­i­ble expe­ri­ences that you just don’t find in a city hos­pi­tal where you’re stuck in the com­mute dri­ving to your shift, then you do your shift, and you’re stuck in the com­mute going home again, perhaps. 

And that close­ness of the clin­ic staff as well… I’ve heard over many years of facil­i­tat­ing with CRANAplus some of the most incred­i­ble sto­ries around very small teams of peo­ple doing very excel­lent clin­i­cal care to keep some­body alive until they get trans­ferred to more defin­i­tive care, which is absolute­ly remarkable. 

I have the utmost respect for clin­i­cians that spend their careers…working in these environments. 

Cross­ing the divide to become an educator

Kep­pel: My con­tri­bu­tion to remote health­care has been with CRANAplus, vol­un­teer facil­i­tat­ing on their Mater­ni­ty Emer­gency Care and Mid­wifery Upskilling cours­es, and I’ve been doing that now for over 12 years.

Some years are pret­ty busy, with eight or nine cours­es a year. The last few Covid years have been a bit quieter.

So while I don’t have the capac­i­ty at the moment to work in a rur­al and remote area, I main­tain my engage­ment and the small part that I can play is by bring­ing qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion to the rur­al and remote health work­force around mater­ni­ty care.

The Mater­ni­ty Emer­gency Care course is pre­dom­i­nate­ly for nurs­es and health work­ers, and doc­tors that haven’t done obstet­rics. For first-timers, it’s an intro­duc­tion to the world of the dark arts of mater­ni­ty care.

So, we real­ly go from the con­text of mater­ni­ty care in rur­al and remote set­tings, which is sig­nif­i­cant­ly chal­leng­ing at times, to some of the mater­nal mor­bid­i­ty stuff to real­ly set some con­text. Then we go from ante­na­tal right through to postnatal.

Many of our rur­al and remote nurs­es and mid­wives play a sig­nif­i­cant role in good ante­na­tal and post­na­tal care par­tic­u­lar­ly if their com­mu­ni­ties don’t offer birthing.

We have a vari­ety of mater­ni­ty emer­gency skill sta­tions and edu­ca­tion around those emer­gent sit­u­a­tions so that they have got a bit of a back-pock­et of skills if they were to have a woman birth in their remote location.

The Mid­wifery Upskilling course is for mid­wives and often we have GPs that have done their obstet­rics diplo­ma that work out bush they might come along as well. It real­ly is that knowl­edge refresh­er, as we know, health­care moves in leaps and bounds.

The oth­er bonus with Mid­wifery Upskilling is that it is often one of the rare oppor­tu­ni­ties that mid­wives that work in quite iso­lat­ed loca­tions have to come togeth­er as a col­le­gial group.

To lis­ten to the full episode, or hear from oth­er guests, head over to CRANAcast.