We catch up with Midwife Hannah who tells us about the realities of working in a remote hospital in the Australian Northern Territory. With nearly 800 residents, Katherine is a small town around three hours away from Darwin. Hannah moved to Katherine during the “build up” and tells us what it was like to live and work there.
I started work at Katherine in the “build up” which is the worst time to move to the Northern Territories, according to many of the locals. The heat hits you like an oven when you leave the safety of the air conditioning, not always an unpleasant feeling. When the heat is unbearable, the staff accommodation is only across the car park, so the commute to work is pretty stress-free.
The accommodation itself is clean, basic, air conditioned (oh so important) and social! Not to mention that there is a heavenly underused pool and grounds that are abundant with countless mango trees, limes, garden beds of herbs, and the odd chilli or plantain tree.
Walk to town
The hospital is a bit of a walk from town, but it is nice to escape the hospital for an outing. Wandering into town is a straightforward walk, and at the end of that walk you are rewarded with natural hot springs, quality coffee plus a good feed. We have markets every Saturday, and you simply cannot forget the pubs with those icy cold beers on tap.
Supportive and experienced staff
Coming from a well-to-do area in Sydney as a midwife, to a remote hospital in the outback was bit of a change. Luckily, this unit is used to contracted midwives coming and going, and the transition was as smooth as I could have hoped for. Supportive and super experienced, the long-term staff here have a wealth of knowledge. For a small unit with only 300 births a year, the traffic through this unit does not reflect the numbers. The women are strong, beautiful and amazing. They come from hundreds of kilometres away for their care.
The landscape in the territory is stunning! By being there for the “build up”, I witnessed the change from dry red dirt as far as the eye can see, to long green grass, with swampy features.
I spent the majority of my free time in the water as there are a number of spectacular national parks that are driving distance away. There are so many water holes to explore, and as a water baby, this is one of the most crucial things for me. Most were crocodile free and on some occasions when desperation was upon me, I did dip myself very quickly in some pretty shady spots. It was worth it though!
I could spend thousands of pages describing the differences between the city and the outback. Let me leave you with what I was the most challenged with, which was culture. Culturally, the women and their needs can be such a big learning curve, one that I really wanted to get my head around.
Being a midwife means being with women. A simple theory! But here, you work really hard to build those relationships. It reflects on the workload as well, as you may not birth as many women, but you spend a lot more time one-on-one. In many ways, the day-to-day will be similar to what you’re used to. You use the same skills to birth babies and they still come out the same ways. It is how you go about it that may be the difference.
Speak to the local midwives, other members of staff and the women you take care of for the tips and tricks to the place. There will be some little nuggets of advice that will change your world and make life easier. The tip that I found most useful was Northern Territory time – not today and not tomorrow. The lifestyle up there is relaxed beyond belief.
I wholeheartedly recommend doing a remote placement or doing anything that gets you out of your comfort zone as a nurse, midwife or as a person. I truly believe that it will change you. The change in perspective will do you wonders.
Not every day is perfect, no matter who you are and where you work, and it definitely won’t be on your placement but embrace it and run with it. Whether you’re a young nurse like me chasing adventures and travel, or an experienced nurse looking for that second wind to answer the question why am I still in this career. Guaranteed it will not suit everyone but give it a go, reignite that passion for nursing/midwifery and see some of the most beautiful parts of Australia while slogging your guts out with some of the best in the industry. I dare you...
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