Catherine Austin

Registered Nurse and Midwife

Catherine Austin is a registered nurse/midwife from a farm at Blackbutt, north of Toowoomba in Queensland. While her initial general nursing training was in Canberra, Catherine spent her life living and working in rural and regional hospitals and health facilities.

Catherine was always interested to work in small rural hospitals and remote health centres. To equip her for positions in rural hospitals, Catherine completed midwifery training very shortly after completing her general nursing graduate year.

Due to her family and her children’s education responsibilities, Catherine spent some years managing a regional health facility. During that time it gave her an opportunity for further education in primary and rural nursing. Catherine completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Advanced Nursing (Rural Health) and a Masters of Nursing (Nurse Practitioner) majoring in primary health.

Once Catherine children had completed their education she was able to follow her passion of rural and remote nursing and in 2009 was credentialed to work for Aspen Medical in Defence Barracks Hospitals and health clinics. This was followed shortly after by being credentialed to work for the Remote Area Health Corps (RAHC). For a few years Catherine was employed part time at a defence barracks hospital while taking placements with RAHC.

“Having worked with RAHC, this experience helped when the Rural Locum Assistance Programme (previously known as NAHRLS) commenced in July 2011 and I was invited to apply to be credentialed and take up available locum placements with the Rural Locum Assistance Programme (Rural LAP).

I continue to be credentialed to work for Defence On-base Health Services with Aspen Medical and RAHC as a registered nurse and midwife. Rural LAP provides the opportunity to complement both placements and vice versa. During this time, I have also completed two more post graduate qualifications.

Rural LAP is a very good method of completing short locum placements in many and varied heath facilities in multiple states of Australia.

I prefer locum placements at smaller rural hospitals as it continually refreshes my nursing skills in the hospital setting as well as allow me to practice intrapartum midwifery. I believe it is very important for continual education to work in a variety of settings. The Rural LAP locum assignments provide for that education.

It was very interesting to be a part of the initial Rural LAP process and great to be part of the regular updates required to maintain a credentialed status. It is incumbent on the applicant to maintain their continual professional development.

I have since completed locum placements in small rural hospitals in NSW, South Australia and Queensland as well as Remote Community health centres in NT.

The most interesting and rewarding experience is being able to meet and work with so many excellent health professionals from all disciplines and all walks of life. By being able to return to a rural hospital and be reacquainted with nurses/midwives is a great pleasure.

Recently, I was placed as the midwife at a small rural hospital in South Australia. Working night duty I met and was caring for a woman having her first baby. She and her husband had great expectations of how the birth would be for them both. Unfortunately, the labour did not proceed well and she had an emergency Caesarean delivery which was quite harrowing for them both.

Fortunately, because of the skills and willingness of the enrolled nurse I was rostered with to take care of the other patients, I was able to spend time with the new mother. As midwife I cared for her during her entire stay in hospital. Post-natal care went well and farewells were exchanged on her discharge. What a great joy and reward it was to have a thank you card and photo arrive at my home address some six weeks later!

Even though some locum placements are short, sometimes you can still make a difference to someone’s hospital or health service experience.

There are too many interesting and rewarding experiences working in remote Northern Territory indigenous communities. Suffice to say, if you are open to the anthropological and cultural learning opportunities the rewards can be immense and life changing. The key, I believe, is to be open to the experience and not judgmental no matter how uncommon it may be to our way of life.

Of course the emergency situations you can find yourself involved in, which make quite an interesting read, but for me it’s the day to day nursing that gives me the greatest rewards.

Orientation of the health facility and local population in a short time is one of the challenges with Rural LAP placements but it can be very rewarding.

Overall, I have found staff very supportive prior to and during my placements and I will certainly continue to apply for Rural LAP placements when they are available. It is always slightly frustrating when the placement dates of rural hospitals I enjoy working in don’t fit in with my other programs. Other than that, I highly recommend the Rural LAP program.