Overwhelmed & under-resourced!

A remote nursing experience in the NT Australia (part 2)

The lovely Roper River – NT – Australia

After one week working at the clinic in the remote aboriginal community it was time for us to review how things had gone. When I say we I am referring to my wife (Jenny, also a nurse) and myself.

Really, a review wasn’t necessary, because it was obvious to us both that the amount of work required at the clinic was staggering and we both felt hopelessly inadequate, ill-equipped and understaffed to do what the department recommended.

Seeing sick kids every morning, diagnosing and treating was an extreme challenge and it was difficult to feel any real confidence in the decisions we were making. There were no phones and we had to rely on daily radio contact to the hospital at our nearest major town (500 klms away). In an emergency we could try to use the radio at other times but this was far from a reliable process.

There had been no nursing staff at the community for some months so stocks of medicines and dressings were desperately low. Language communication was a major problem with a lot of the population of 900 only speaking a broken pigeon english. The shyness of many aboriginal people (particularly the younger women) compounded this difficulty.

The Roper River – complete with beer cans!

Some of the health programs that were in desperate need of attention included:

  • TB screening
  • Trachoma eye drop administration
  • STD screening (sexually transmitted disease)
  • School health
  • Skinny kids monitoring
  • Immunizations
  • Diabetic follow ups
  • Healthy ears and hearing
  • Antenatal clinic
  • Environmental projects

Apart from this there were the every day demands from the clinic presentations of unwell kids and adults. Being on call 24/7 just added to this already demanding scenario.

The Aboriginal Health Workers were vital to the successful functioning of the community health team, but it would take some time before all of us could feel confident & comfortable with each other.

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