Travelling to out of the way places is fun!

Vicki Hickman - Registered Nurse

I am a Registered Nurse with over 30 years’ experience in acute care and rural hospitals. I live in a beautiful coastal town called Port Sorell in northern Tasmania.

I first heard about the Rural Locum Assistance Programme (Rural LAP) in 2012 while I was working at Christmas Island hospital. The hospital had recruited a Registered Nurse (RN) from Rural LAP and it was a first time visit by an RN from this locum program. As Christmas Island is a remote location, all nurses that are employed need to be very experienced and competent with a wide range of skills. So it was with this RN and we talked about Rural LAP and how happy she was to be working for them.

Following our discussion about the opportunities with Rural LAP, I was pretty excited and set about applying for the locum register. I wanted to be able to do short rural/remote contracts and still have plenty of time back in Tassie to be with family and build our new house. The credentialing process for Rural LAP was understandably comprehensive but easy to work your way through.

I left Christmas Island in December 2014 and began my first Rural LAP placement in Murgon, Queensland a short month later. It was a wonderful introduction as my first placement working in rural Queensland and exploring the countryside on my days off. I even managed to get caught up in a cyclone and was stranded in Hervey Bay at the end of that placement. Not a bad place to be stranded might I add. I did manage to change my travel arrangements and fly out from Hervey Bay thanks to the support from the Rural LAP travel coordinator.

Since the Murgon placement, I have travelled to New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania working in small rural and remote hospitals. The smaller hospitals are most rewarding as they usually have great a team and good country folk in interesting locations.

Other health professionals have expressed amazement that this type of employment is available. They are usually envious and want to find out all they can about Rural LAP. For me, working with Rural LAP is like a working holiday - travelling to out of the way places, meeting great people and having lots of fun!

My most rewarding experience so far has to be at the King Island Hospital which is part of the Tasmanian Health Service. King Island in Bass Strait is famous for its beautiful dairy and beef products, crayfish industry and local “kelpers”. It is a wild and wonderful place, with many beaches and ship wrecks from years gone by. It has amazing bird life and as a "twitcher" I spend a lot of my spare time, binoculars in hand, looking for the rare itinerant birds such as the endangered swift parrot.

The King Island Hospital and Health Centre has 6 acute beds, an emergency room, outpatients consulting rooms and 14 residential care beds. The Volunteer Ambulance personnel provide services to the King Island community via the Tasmanian Ambulance Service, and Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) for aeromedical transport.

RFDS is at the mercy of the weather and availability so there is always the need to manage emergencies on site at the hospital. There are two general practitioners with an on-call RN available for these emergency situations.

I have now completed about five placements on King Island and feel very much at home there, thanks to the support of a great team at the hospital. I fly out of Wynyard in a small 20 seater plane over some glorious coastline and arrive at the King Island airport some forty minutes later.

The rewards for working with Rural LAP are both financial and experiential. Everything is arranged by the professionals at Rural LAP. The travel coordinator, Ieysha, goes out of her way to manage your travel and accommodation arrangements which enhances the overall experience. The Rural LAP manager, Nada, and the recruitment team are also readily available should you have any concerns before, during and after your placement.

The experience is also about going to places you would not normally go to and seeing things like the Parkes radio telescope which I managed to see whilst on placement in West Wyalong, NSW. The other benefits you get from being Rural LAP locum is that you get to choose which placements you apply for and how often you want to work. There is variety in the locations and types of skills required so there is something for everyone.

Financially, there are incentives which you just don’t get with nursing agencies, so it makes sense to work for Rural LAP.

I am always asked about Rural LAP and how one goes about applying for a position with this program. I direct them to the website and encourage them to up-skill as a Remote Area Nurse (RAN) to maximize the knowledge and skills that are needed to be employed through Rural LAP.