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Transitioning to remote practice: RANPP participants on their career journeys to date

7 Apr 2023

Midway through 2022, CRANAplus accepted four nurses into its pilot Remote Area Nursing Pathway Program (RANPP). The program attracted interest from hundreds of nurses, highlighting the emerging workforce’s need for structured transition programs of this kind. Following the program’s completion in February 2023, we caught up with the four participants to discuss their career journeys, and the benefits of preparation.

Jess Payne

I first went to Ten­nant Creek as a stu­dent and when we were plan­ning on going remote again, I fig­ured that was a good start­ing point,” Jess says. I knew some of the peo­ple there and had an idea of where I was going.

[Work­ing rural­ly and remote­ly] was some­thing I’d always thought of doing, espe­cial­ly work­ing with Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Islander Peo­ples. I’m a Yuwaalaraay woman and I’m pas­sion­ate about Abo­rig­i­nal health and well­be­ing so

I always want­ed to work in com­mu­ni­ty, to achieve good out­comes. We look after our own.

There’s always a bit of reser­va­tion, though – you’ve nev­er been some­where so remote. Being able to go some­where in a real­ly sup­port­ed role as a stu­dent takes away some of your anx­i­eties. The not know­ing, the uncer­tain­ty, is a poten­tial bar­ri­er. But I think once you take that leap, it’s amazing.

There’s not any ulti­mate thing you can do to pre­pare your­self, but you can go in with a lit­tle more con­fi­dence in your practice.

This pro­gram [coin­cid­ed with] my first real expe­ri­ence as a RN in a remote area. It was amaz­ing – even just hav­ing the sup­port of oth­er par­tic­i­pants and the edu­ca­tors to bounce things off; and know­ing you’re not alone in your feel­ings and every­one is going through the same things. Plus the REC and the MEC course were amaz­ing – as a refresh­er, but also as com­plete­ly new learn­ing, con­tex­tu­alised to work­ing in isolation.

I’ve relo­cat­ed to Vic­to­ria [recent­ly] but I cer­tain­ly hope to get back to remote prac­tice when it’s right for me and my fam­i­ly. I want to devel­op my career, my lead­er­ship skills. I hope to inspire and empow­er oth­er Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Islander peo­ple to become involved in deci­sion-mak­ing and gov­er­nance in health organ­i­sa­tions, so we can con­tin­ue to decolonise atti­tudes and ser­vices to pro­vide Cul­tur­al­ly Safe and respon­sive care.”

Helen Car­man

I’d done about eight years in the metro sys­tem in WA when COVID-19 arrived and result­ed in bor­der restric­tions,” says Helen.

Nor­mal­ly, I was trav­el­ling, and felt I was explor­ing the world. I start­ed to get a bit burnt out, lost. I was in ICU, and there was some com­pas­sion fatigue.

I took a sec­ond­ment, where I flew up to the Kim­ber­ley for four months. I knew I liked work­ing region­al­ly. But I’d nev­er lived four months some­where. I felt I was in a dif­fer­ent world.

The patients were dif­fer­ent, the lifestyle dif­fer­ent. Work­ing away from Perth re-ignit­ed my pas­sion for nurs­ing. I start­ed think­ing, if I like this, maybe I’d want to go fur­ther remote.

You gain auton­o­my; and even though you’ve got sup­port elec­tron­i­cal­ly, through tele­health and phone calls, you real­ly need to know what you’re doing.

I was work­ing in a lit­tle two-nurse ED, one of the most iso­lat­ed I’d been in to that point. I don’t have a mid­wifery back­ground; in the city, you look after one speciality.

A woman came in, in labour, and we end­ed up deliv­er­ing this baby and it went fine. But we were on our own, and I remem­ber think­ing – I need to know a bit more about every­thing, for when these sit­u­a­tions arise.

I had seen the pro­gram online, and want­ed to do the Mater­ni­ty Emer­gency Care course, which was includ­ed. It all lined up – I thought, what a godsend.

I’ve met some girls in the coun­try who have gone from the city to a real­ly small clin­ic and last­ed three or four days, then gone back.

If you go remote on your own, inde­pen­dent­ly, it’s pret­ty hard­core. I wouldn’t per­son­al­ly want to do it… This path­way has been a lot more gentle.

If CRANAplus could fit more peo­ple on the path­way, so many nurs­es would love to do it.

[My rec­om­men­da­tion to fel­low nurs­es is] just go for it. Per­haps start off at a big­ger site, and work your way down small­er and small­er. Know you’ve got the back­ground sup­port, like the Bush Sup­port Line.

You don’t hear of many peo­ple work­ing remote­ly, then you go remote – and there’s a whole sup­port net­work of nurs­es doing the same thing. When you’re feel­ing far from home, you don’t feel lonely.”

Michelle Appo

I decid­ed in 2016 to be a reg­is­tered nurse,” Michelle says.

When I was work­ing in the hos­pi­tal sys­tem it was very hard, as an Indige­nous nurse, to see the treat­ment of remote Indige­nous patients… You’re fight­ing insti­tu­tion­al racism.

I thor­ough­ly believe that I can do more for my peo­ple out­side of the hos­pi­tal sys­tem, rather than in… In pri­ma­ry health care [work­ing for an Abo­rig­i­nal Med­ical Ser­vice], it goes with­out say­ing they will always come to us first, before they will go to a ter­tiary insti­tu­tion like a hospital.

This pro­gram has been absolute­ly, essen­tial­ly impor­tant for me. I’m a third-year nurse now, and things are just start­ing to make sense, to click. Often you go down the wrong path and halfway through, you realise, this is the avenue I should’ve tak­en. Where­as this pro­gram, it takes you right there.

It gives you the tools, the train­ing, and the advice to start remote­ly… It’s not hid­ing any­thing, so you go there with all the inform- ation and all the skills to do remote nursing.

I’d like to start tri­alling remote. I still want to get that pri­ma­ry health care [expe­ri­ence for the next year or so]; it’s real­ly impor­tant to have that ground­ing first. Pri­ma­ry health care can change a person’s life forever.

I’ve got a lot of nurs­ing friends, and my point to a lot of them is this: if you can talk to and treat an Indige­nous per­son like you would any oth­er per­son, any oth­er nation­al­i­ty; if you can hold their hand like you would any­one else, then you know you should be remote.

I think this pro­gram is essen­tial. I’m an Indige­nous nurse, and I’ve learned so much – even a lot more about my own his­to­ry than I knew before. I hope [CRANAplus] gets fund­ing to con­tin­ue it.”

Jaimy West

I hap­pened to have done my immu­ni­sa­tion cer­tifi­cate, pre-COVID,” Jaimy says, and I want­ed to see what was out­side of Mait­land, New South Wales.

So I joined an agency, and acci­den­tal­ly joined rur­al and remote’ instead of ter­tiary’. The next minute I’m in the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry in Ten­nant Creek, at the hos­pi­tal, run­ning [a COVID-19] immu­ni­sa­tion clinic.

I’m con­fi­dent I could go any­where and work, but you need to be aware of your­self and your con­nec­tion to Coun­try. It’s one of those eerie things – as soon as I saw the red, brown, the heat, I knew I was where I need­ed to be.

There was noth­ing about Ten­nant Creek I didn’t like. I knew then I want­ed to go and work in remote communities.

In my spare time, I jumped on the CRANAplus web­site and called CRANAplus and asked how I could fur­ther my edu­ca­tion. That’s how I found out about this program.

I think there’s so much pres­sure in ter­tiary now, peo­ple think they’ll go out to a com­mu­ni­ty and it will be eas­i­er. I think that’s where some peo­ple fail and so I think I’ve been extreme­ly for­tu­nate to have been accept­ed into the CRANAplus Pro­gram. I’ve been giv­en tools so that when I get back out there, I know what to expect.

Through the pro­gram, we learned not just how we are going to look after the com­mu­ni­ty and the nurs­ing side of things; it brought home how to look after your­self, as well as cul­tur­al aware­ness and Cul­tur­al Safe­ty.
I also loved that I was able to stay home and keep my main job.

My biggest piece of advice would be to join CRANAplus.”

Click to read more about the Remote Area Nurs­ing Path­way Pro­gram. To be noti­fied of any future oppor­tu­ni­ties to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram, sub­scribe to CRANA­pulse newslet­ter.

For more insight into tran­si­tion­ing to remote health, read arti­cles how to apply for schol­ar­ships, the dif­fer­ences between urban and remote nurs­ing, and FAQs about agency work answered by Verus Peo­ple.