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Student story: Cameron's remote nursing placement on Thursday Island

8 Apr 2024

Cameron Powers’ final student nursing placement has solidified his career direction: he’s heading remote. Here, the Queensland University of Technology student writes about his multi-leg adventure to undertake a student placement at Thursday Island Hospital, the transition from in-class to real-world learning, and why if the opportunity arose, he’d head back to TI in a heartbeat.

In Decem­ber 2023, I was for­tu­nate to com­plete my penul­ti­mate nurs­ing place­ment at Thurs­day Island Hos­pi­tal with­in the Tor­res and Cape Hos­pi­tal and Health Ser­vice. Thurs­day Island is a 3.5 km² island locat­ed with­in the Tor­res Strait, approx­i­mate­ly 39km north of the Cape York Penin­su­la in Far North Queensland.

Thurs­day Island Hos­pi­tal is the refer­ral cen­tre for 17 pri­ma­ry health­care cen­tres across the Tor­res Strait.

Because of this, we often had patients arriv­ing by fer­ry, com­mer­cial air­craft and emer­gency helicopters.

I had com­plet­ed place­ments in rur­al areas pre­vi­ous­ly. How­ev­er, this was my first expe­ri­ence in a remote loca­tion with a pri­ma­ry Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Islander com­mu­ni­ty which sparked great excite­ment as I would final­ly get expe­ri­ence in remote area nursing.

Trans­port to Thurs­day Island involved fly­ing to Cairns and catch­ing a Qan­tasLink flight to Horn Island and then catch­ing a bus and fer­ry to Thurs­day Island.

Thurs­day Island Hos­pi­tal offers a range of ser­vices such as emer­gency, gen­er­al med­ical, surgery, day pro­ce­dures, mater­ni­ty, obstet­rics, gynae­col­o­gy and renal.

The hos­pi­tal was under­go­ing major ren­o­va­tions and cur­rent­ly had four emer­gency depart­ment bays com­posed of two resus bays and two con­sult rooms, eight ward beds and two HDU beds with the mater­ni­ty, renal and sur­gi­cal wards in sep­a­rate­ly attached areas.

The hos­pi­tal staff were all incred­i­bly wel­com­ing and very keen to have a stu­dent. I was impressed at the resources avail­able with­in the hos­pi­tal despite its remote loca­tion, espe­cial­ly with their recent­ly obtained CT scanner.

This CRANAplus Under­grad­u­ate Remote Place­ment Schol­ar­ship was spon­sored by Aussiewide Transport.

Through­out my four weeks, I spent most of the time in the emer­gency depart­ment, work­ing along­side sev­er­al nurs­es from var­i­ous back­grounds. Many nurs­es I worked with came up on short-term con­tracts but end­ed up stay­ing due to lov­ing the work offered in the Tor­res Strait.

Learn­ing about con­di­tions such as RHD quick­ly moved from in-class the­o­ry to real-world prac­tice with many of the pre­sen­ta­tions involv­ing sore throats, skin sores and oth­er gen­er­al infec­tions. I prompt­ly learned that cer­tain seem­ing­ly minor symp­toms hold the sig­nif­i­cant poten­tial of dete­ri­o­rat­ing into severe and life-chang­ing conditions.

Fur­ther­more, we also saw sev­er­al emer­gency pre­sen­ta­tions such as myocar­dial infarc­tion, sep­sis and cere­brovas­cu­lar accidents.

Being in a remote area, I was able to gain expe­ri­ence at every point of the emer­gency depart­ment expe­ri­ence, from triage, his­to­ry tak­ing, assess­ments and crit­i­cal interventions.

See­ing the cal­i­bre of skill of the nurs­es at Thurs­day Island tru­ly demon­strat­ed the dif­fer­ence one can make as a nurse through both clin­i­cal and social means.

Mov­ing for­ward, I hope to gain crit­i­cal care expe­ri­ence by com­plet­ing my grad­u­ate year in a busy region­al hos­pi­tal before mak­ing the jump to work­ing in more rur­al and remote envi­ron­ments. If the oppor­tu­ni­ty arose to return to Thurs­day Island, I wouldn’t hes­i­tate to take it. My expe­ri­ence in this remote set­ting tru­ly solid­i­fied my career aspi­ra­tion and I extend my utmost grat­i­tude to CRANAplus for sup­port­ing me in this.