Remote area nursing: a rewarding specialty with unexpected benefits

August 3, 2015

People living in rural and remote areas in Australia face several challenges when it comes to receiving adequate healthcare. Because they live far inland in difficult to access areas, access to medical services and transport is very limited. Remote area nurses work in a range of settings across Australia where they focus on providing care to remote indigenous communities.

Unique features of remote area nursing

Remote area nurses may work independently or they may work as part of a small team. However, the concept of teamwork in remote area medicine is quite different. Here the team members are separated from one another geographically. They consult and support one another by phone.

Having a broad scope of skills is important for these professionals as they have to single-handedly deal with a wide range of conditions in patients across all ages. When intervention is required, they may refer patients to the nearest hospital. Remote area nurses often remain available on call to the community 24/7.

Preparing for your role as a remote nurse

Indigenous communities have illnesses and challenges that are quite different from those of non-indigenous people and any healthcare provider who is considering working in these parts of the country will have to undergo special orientation programs and preparatory courses. Most employers will require you to have at least 3 years of nursing experience before they will consider hiring you for this role. Many employers will also provide the necessary introductory and support programs before you fly out to the job.

There are also a variety of programs that focus on educating remote health workers. These could range from short courses to undergraduate and postgraduate student placements. It is important that you choose a course that has been accredited for continuing professional development points.

During any time during your nursing or midwifery education, if you think that you may want to take up remote area nursing, you should consider selecting topics such as indigenous health, cultural safety and self care. These are all courses that will equip you with the skills necessary to work in a remote practice. Another option is to look for student placements in rural or remote settings.

Pros and cons of remote area nursing

As a remote area nurse you will enjoy several attractive perks and financial incentives, from higher hourly wages and on-call rates to better tax breaks. Most employers will take care of all of your travel, food and accommodation expenses as well as specific incidental expenses.

Other perks that remote area nurses admit to enjoying include the opportunity to work autonomously away from the large hospital environment, experiencing the outback lifestyle and the adventurous nature of the job.

The downside is the isolation of the job. To most remote health workers, missing family and friends is first on their list of cons of the job. Other aspects include waiting for a plane to land to pick up a critically ill patient and having to cope with fewer resources and no support.

Remote area nursing is a rewarding and fulfilling experience for any nursing professional wanting to further their career while exploring the remote areas of the country at the same time.