For community health nurse Sally Burton, losing multiple staff to remote healthcare placements set her on a new professional path.
In a past life, Sally was working in a hospital in a managerial role and preparing for semi-retirement when, after fielding call after call from nursing agencies seeking references for her staff to go on locum placements, she decided to shake things up and give it a go herself.
“I was getting all these calls from agencies asking for references and the more I heard the stories from nurses working in a remote setting, the more interesting it sounded and the more excited I got about giving it a go myself,” Sally says.
Sally started locum work with Nganampa Health in 2012. “I thought I’d do it for a year. Well, the rest is history. I wasn’t thinking I’d go out and save the world, but it was something new, something exciting and it offered travel, further education in nursing, excellent money and the chance to experience a completely new world and fascinating work.”
For Sally, working with the local community, living on the APY Lands and being part of the Nganampa Health community brings as many rewards as it does challenges. “This is a really challenging position on the front line of primary health where you are not just learning to work within a culture that is different to your own, you also need to understand the limitations of how much you can help.”
“I obviously do feel frustrated from time to time as we’d all like to make an even bigger impact but what we do is so often about small, powerful steps.
Over time, I have gotten to know the Anangu people better and they have accepted me which makes a huge difference to the care I can provide.
One of the best things about being here is that every day I am learning something new, so academically and professionally, I feel extremely fulfilled.”
Sally says that her rewards at Nganampa Health come from a mix of ongoing education and bettering her practice and herself, as well as professional satisfaction and salary.
“It is far more financially beneficial to work in a remote setting in health care, but that’s not what drives me. The work is so varied and I love the autonomy and responsibility of my job that definitely beats being in a hospital.”
It’s not just the local community and professional satisfaction that provides a sense of satisfaction. Sally has forged lasting bonds with her colleagues, who she describes as being more like family.
“Because of the setting and the challenge, the friendships you make with teammates are somehow stronger than those you make elsewhere.
“I’ve worked overseas and at Nganampa Health it feels a bit like the ‘expat’ community you have when you are away from home. And because you don’t have all the comforts you are used to, everyone chips in and makes an extra effort for each other.”
So, what does her future at Nganampa Health look like?
“Considering I thought I’d stay for one year and it has been a lot longer than that, I think I’ll be here for a while still. I can’t see myself working anywhere else as I haven’t found anything that appeals as much as working for Nganampa Health.”