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Remote area nursing packing list

8 Apr 2024

We invited CRANAplus Members to share their advice on items to bring when working in a remote area, or to purchase when visiting a regional or urban hub. Here is the list you helped us to compile!

Pho­to cred­it: Lucie/stock.adobe.com

1. Cof­fee

As Lau­ra from Arn­hem Land puts it, good cof­fee is hard to come by”. How peo­ple come by it dif­fers wide­ly. Leanne takes a cof­fee pod machine and enough pods to last the dura­tion. Car­o­line prefers her Aero­Press and like­wise Kat­ri­na and Kar­lene take a cof­fee plunger/​French press and ground cof­fee. Wendy switch­es between these con­trap­tions depend­ing on whether she’s fly­ing or dri­ving. Tea drinkers, bring some high-qual­i­ty tea bags!

2. A sharp knife & cutlery

Blunt knives are com­mon­place. Kel­ly rec­om­mends a small Japan­ese cook­ing knife and Mary rec­om­mends Wilt­shire Stay Sharp knives, though they did hold her up at air­port secu­ri­ty recent­ly. A knife sharp­en­er also works.

Trav­el cut­lery, a small fry­pan, a tea­spoon, a fork, and a peel­er may also be of use. A can open­er will allow you to open cheap brands of canned foods that still require one. Kel­ly sug­gests a whisk to pre­pare eggs or pro­tein shakes/​smoothies.

3. Enter­tain­ment
Alice likes to bring books about the loca­tion she’s going to: his­to­ry, cur­rent com­mu­ni­ty activ­i­ties, and espe­cial­ly sim­ple lan­guage learn­ing texts. It’s com­mon for peo­ple to leave books behind and senior col­leagues are like­ly to have exhaust­ed the clin­ic library’. They’ll be keen to swap. Books will help you to get through any pow­er outages!

Mem­bers also sug­gest­ed a Kin­dle, knitting/​crochet mate­ri­als, a jig­saw and puz­zle mat, card games, board games, and oth­er hob­by items, such as mod­el trains. Brochures on local tourist attrac­tions and camp­ing gear may help you to make the most of any time off.

A craft project can also be a great source of enter­tain­ment. San­dra has start­ed a lit­tle cot­tage indus­try mak­ing Cro­chet Crit­ters 4 Com­mu­ni­ty Kids’ which she gives to chil­dren dur­ing health checks, or immu­ni­sa­tions. It’s a hit and I love spend­ing my down­time cre­at­ing these crit­ters” she says.

4. Med­ica­tions

Med­ica­tions may not be read­i­ly avail­able in remote areas, or dif­fi­cult to obtain with pri­va­cy. Mem­bers rec­om­mend bring­ing a stock of your reg­u­lar med­ica­tions, and also those that you only occa­sion­al­ly use – enough to last the rotation. 

If you are able to file scripts where you work, be sure to bring these too. If you trav­el by boat or plane, con­sid­er bring­ing gin­ger trav­el sick­ness tablets.

5. Cosmetic/​comfort items

Car­o­line rec­om­mends bring­ing your favourite per­fume and hair dye to cov­er any greys/​regrowth. A good mois­turis­er can be a nice touch and help in a loca­tion with hard min­er­al-rich water.

Spa treats, a scent­ed can­dle, body cream, DIY pedi­cure good­ies, a small mir­ror, shampoo/​conditioner in lit­tle con­tain­ers, a face wash­er, a heat pack, a small fan, your own pil­low and pil­low­case, a sheet/​your own linen, your own blan­kets, a mat­tress top­per, and choco­late were among the oth­er recommendations.

Lor­raine says she always has a day of main­te­nance’ spoil­ing her­self on return to the city lights.

Pho­to cred­it: Rabi­zo Anatolii/stock.adobe.com

6. Food

As Fiona says, it may be nec­es­sary to low­er your expec­ta­tions about fresh food and oth­er gro­ceries and to get cre­ative with what’s avail­able. Many Mem­bers includ­ing Chris­tine sug­gest­ed tak­ing herbs and spices or your own cur­ry pastes, which can be dou­ble sealed in zip lock bags to save on space with­in luggage.

Nadine from the Kim­ber­ley sug­gests Tup­per-ware con­tain­ers for left-over food. Mean­while, John brings plen­ty of pre-pre­pared meals or ingre­di­ents to make and freeze for when he is on call – because there’s noth­ing worse than hav­ing a meal half cooked when the phone call comes in that keeps you out all night.

Non-per­ish­able items, includ­ing long-life milk, will pro­tect you if there’s a pow­er out­age. When it comes to ver­sa­tile cook­ing meth­ods, you can’t beat an air fryer!

7. Water

There are many dif­fer­ent approach­es to water and the cor­rect approach will depend on loca­tion. As John says, in some com­mu­ni­ties the water can have a unique taste and can take a long time to get used to. I sug­gest bring­ing your own water with you and drink­ing plen­ty of it.” Wendy sug­gests a BRI­TA water jug with a fil­ter to remove the taste, cal­ci­um and so on. 

Ben and his part­ner take water purifi­ca­tion to anoth­er lev­el, using a My Water Fil­ter’ Reverse Osmo­sis Portable Unit to remove heavy min­er­als and improve drink­ing water. As Ben explains, it gen­er­ates 20 litres of water in about 1 hour and 15 min­utes. The cost of the unit is approx­i­mate­ly $500. Your fil­ter replace­ment cost is $1,000 over five years (which ini­tial­ly sounds a lot); how­ev­er, we go through 5 litres every day… The ROI is 14 months com­pared to buy­ing $3.50 boxed water. So once you hit month 14 you’re actu­al­ly sav­ing mon­ey com­pared to buy­ing boxed water.”

8. Elec­tron­ics

Make sure you sign up to a Tel­co provider that pro­vides cov­er­age in the area you will be work­ing. Some peo­ple like to pur­chase a phone plan with addi­tion­al data; oth­ers bring their own WiFi in the form of a portable WiFi unit or a don­gle with inter­net con­nec­tion (e.g. search Tel­stra dongle”).

You can keep up a strong con­nec­tion with home by bring­ing fam­i­ly pho­tos to put on the wall. To learn about any upcom­ing local events, you can join the local Face­book page if there is one (thanks Beck for this tip).

Lap­tops and tablets are com­mon­ly brought for enter­tain­ment val­ue or prac­ti­cal val­ue (for exam­ple, to store copies of impor­tant doc­u­ments like your licence or qual­i­fi­ca­tion cer­tifi­cates). Some folks use Chrome­cast to broad­cast onto a TV. Many Mem­bers sug­gest­ed bring­ing an exten­sion cord and a pow­er board with many out­lets. Portable pow­er­packs, car charg­ers, and back-up charg­ing cords keep the charge flow­ing. Car­o­line brings a spare phone in case she los­es or breaks her main one. She also makes sure to have pro­grams and pod­casts down­loaded in case of inter­net failure.

Lots of RANs like to bring cam­eras and/​or drones to cap­ture the love­ly scenery and many rec­om­mend bring­ing extra stor­age, such as a hard­drive or USB, to ensure you don’t run out of space.

A good set of Blue­tooth ear­buds can make a world of dif­fer­ence, as Anna from Tor­res Strait explains. I spend a lot of time alone whilst out in com­mu­ni­ty and my ear­buds are a great com­pan­ion. I can be inspired by a great pod­cast, I can run out the frus­tra­tion of a hard day to some great tunes, I can cook my food for the week lis­ten­ing to a fan­tas­ti­cal sto­ry or I can escape the world with a mind­ful med­i­ta­tion. I get what­ev­er I need, when­ev­er I need it, whilst not dis­turb­ing any­one else.”

9. Ver­sa­tile clothing

Deb­o­rah from the Kim­ber­ley, Ker­ry and Liz sug­gest bring­ing bathers – because you nev­er know when you might need them” and there is always some­where to swim”. Then again, as David and John agree, the desert is not always hot” so be sure to bring some warm clothes and a light­weight rain coat. 

Liz rec­om­mends out­fits that can be lay­ered for warmth. Shoe-wise, she rec­om­mends a uni­ver­sal pair to wear every­where and light run­ners for walk­ing. Stur­dier footwear may also be in order, depend­ing on the terrain.

Oth­er mis­cel­la­neous cloth­ing items to con­sid­er include a wide-brimmed hat, a tow­el, dry bags for organ­is­ing clothes in lug­gage, and a bra bag to wash del­i­cates. Barb rec­om­mends cul­tur­al­ly appro­pri­ate cloth­ing, mean­ing no short skirts or shorts, no tight and reveal­ing tops” and like­wise, oth­er Mem­bers sug­gest non-reveal­ing clothes for respect and sun protection.

10. Insect & weath­er protection

You only for­get a fly net or bug spray once! Mos­qui­to repel­lant can help par­tic­u­lar­ly at night, as may a plug-in mos­qui­to repel­lent for your bed­room. Sun­glass­es, a hat, sun­screen, a snake bite ban­dage and an umbrel­la are also use­ful for keep­ing out the crit­ters and the elements.

11. Exer­cise equipment

With no gyms avail­able, you’ll have to make your own! Mem­bers sug­gest­ed a range of portable exer­cise equip­ment, includ­ing skip­ping ropes, resis­tance bands for Pilates ses­sions, exer­cise balls, and yoga mats.

12. Mis­cel­la­neous items

There are plen­ty of oth­er items that you might like to con­sid­er bring­ing or col­lect­ing when you can, including:

  • A tool­box with the basics: torch, screw­drivers of mul­ti­ple sizes, cable ties, adjustable wrench, and bat­ter­ies (thanks Jess from Tassie for this tip)
  • Spare copies of the CARPA and Clin­i­cal Pro­ce­dures Manuals
  • A high-qual­i­ty stethoscope
  • A notepad and pen to record when you go for a call­out and when you come back; or sim­ply for journaling
  • Lunch box and drink bottle
  • Anti-bac­te­r­i­al wipes. As Andrea from NT tells us, Strike and Ultra anti-bac wipes 100pk cost $3.50 in cities. Much small­er packs over$10 in my remote town in NT. I always grab these when I’m in Alice.”
  • Earplugs for bark­ing dogs (thanks Barb)
  • Door stops for when in accom­mo­da­tion with a con­joined bath­room or for extra security
  • A black sarong (which can also be used as a cur­tain) – thanks Sheri Anne
  • An eye mask for sleeping
  • Laun­dry powder/​detergent, pegs and a string clothes line
  • Cash, because cards may not work at the local store
  • A bed­side light.

Pack­ing light

It’s unlike­ly that you’ll be able to bring all of the items on this list and in fact many Mem­bers talked about the mer­its of pack­ing light. If you are dri­ving to the loca­tion as opposed to fly­ing, it may be pos­si­ble to bring more. 

The loca­tion will also influ­ence how much you need to bring – some places have more shops than oth­ers or are clos­er to rur­al centres.

Loca­tion will also deter­mine how much you can bring. Air­lines often have strict bag­gage allowances and some­times due to pay­load restric­tions in the wet sea­son, addi­tion­al checked bag­gage may be put on stand­by and trans­port­ed on lat­er flights. 

It may be pos­si­ble to send extra resources ahead of time, but this will depend on location.

When work­ing remote­ly, it is not always pos­si­ble to recre­ate the com­forts that are cus­tom­ary in urban or even rur­al Aus­tralia. Being aware of this in advance can help you to pre­pare for your expe­ri­ences and embrace the resource­ful­ness’ that can allow you to thrive in a remote location. 

Many peo­ple report that after some ini­tial adjust­ment, they come to feel they need less than they ever thought. How­ev­er, hav­ing lim­it­ed access to resources does not mirac­u­lous­ly get eas­i­er; it can be an ongo­ing challenge. 

If you need sup­port or strate­gies to nav­i­gate the sig­nif­i­cant demands you face as a remote health pro­fes­sion­al, remem­ber that you can call the Bush Sup­port Line at any time on 1800 805 391.