After training and working overseas in in-patient and community health centres, as well as crisis and assessment teams, David was looking for a new challenge within the mental health space. His interest in Indigenous culture and the challenge and reward that NHC offers is what led him to join the team back in 2013.
“I have always been interested in Indigenous culture. After working for 13 years in New Zealand in Tauranga Hospital in the Bay of Plenty, I was ready for a change. I really wanted a new challenge and when I saw the mental health nurse role that Nganampa Health was offering, I knew it was what I was looking for. It seemed to be a great mix of challenge and reward, and that’s exactly what it has been.”
The change from living in New Zealand to living on the APY lands in the Central Australian desert presents many differences which some people may find difficult to adjust to. Above David’s interest in learning about new cultures and motivation for creating change within remote communities, it’s his resilience as a mental health nurse that contributed to a smooth transition.
“I think it’s fair to say that mental health nurses are very adaptable. I didn’t find the move from New Zealand to the APY lands a problem, especially because NHC are so supportive. They made the transition straightforward. There is always endless support from NHC and all my colleagues - their attitude and experience makes my job easy.”
In addition to mental health nurses, Nganampa Health employs nurses who work and manage specific program areas. These program areas include women’s health, chronic disease management, children’s health, immunisation, eye health, smoking cessation, information management and aged care. These positions make an enormous contribution to the care of our patient’s and many of our successes are as a result of their work.
As a mental health nurse, David’s days are incredibly varied. With a caseload of patients across three communities - Mimili, Ernabella (Pukatja) and Indulkana (Iwantja) - his role involves a lot of driving due to the distance between these areas. Ongoing case management, liaising with GPs and psychiatrists, administering medication and monitoring progress within the community are key parts of David’s diverse role. He also works closely alongside clinic staff and other registered nurses to provide patients with mental health support.
“Previously I’d worked in quite large community mental health teams. Here it’s very different. You work a lot on your own. While you still work with other nurses and psychiatrists you are very autonomous, which is something I enjoy. I manage my own day and responsibilities.”
Having a confident, experienced team is necessary when working remotely and in challenging situations. David believes that everyone at Nganampa Health brings with them unrivalled experience and knowledge that consistently allows them to deliver important outcomes for the community.
“Something I love seeing at NHC is how much experience our clinic nurses have. They are very used to often working without a doctor present, so they all have amazing decision-making skills and sharp clinical skills. Having people like that out here really helps us do great work each day.”
While the issues of remoteness language and social disadvantage present a challenge, the dedicated NHC team has found solutions for overcoming them . In the years since David joined in 2013, he’s been able to witness first-hand the many mental health patient success stories that NHC achieves.
“From being here, it’s evident that so many of our patients in the community do get well. A few years ago, we had a patient who was in a terrible state. They were struggling with a mental illness. But as we began to help, we slowly saw their mental state improve to the point where they are now painting again, working, driving and socialising. I’m proud to say there are so many examples like this.”
David is quick to encourage people to join NHC, but stresses that as Nganampa Health’s success lies in its team, people must first be sure they have the right traits and perspective needed to play a part in the vital work that’s done every day.
“Our teams are made up of experienced people who are very supportive and highly professional. For those wanting to join us, they need to have high cultural awareness and respect, be able to adapt to a remote setting, be flexible and incredibly self-aware. You also need to be able to look after yourself, be kind to yourself and enjoy time off to reconnect with family and friends who don’t live out here.
There are so many unique experiences to be had working at Nganampa Health. Beyond the important work I get to do, it’s this country, the beautiful sunsets, the landscape and culture that have been so worthwhile. I really will never forget it. After my time here I can’t see myself returning to work in a metropolitan area again - that option now seems mundane.”
Looking ahead, David is focused on continuing to develop positive outcomes for mental health patients on the APY lands and providing quality treatment. He is driven to build on existing programs and develop new ones which will improve the lives of patients. In David’s eyes, a good outcome for a patient is always a good outcome for the community.