A Day in the Life of a Miwatj Health Remote Area Nurse

What does an average day in the life of a Remote Area Nurse (RAN) look like? Well, that’s not an easy question to answer. As all RANs at Miwatj can attest to, no one day in community is like the one before—from scheduled appointments to unexpected acute clinic presentations; planned community outreach to healthcare opportunities that arise out of the back of a Troopie, the life of a RAN is busy and unpredictable. Still, it’s a job our nurses come back to time and time again. Why? Because the impact and results make it always worthwhile!

Remote Area Nurses are special people—not only are they driven to provide quality primary health care, as all nurses are, they choose to do it in some of Australia’s most isolated settings. Our nurses embrace culture, respect customs, and work as part of a tight, interdisciplinary team of doctors, midwives, allied health professionals, Aboriginal Health Practitioners (AHPs), drivers, and other staff to provide effective and empowering healthcare to Yolŋu residents. As the world celebrates the 2023 International Nurses Day theme, “Our Nurses. Our Future”, it’s one we can’t deny—all the hours and effort Miwatj nurses put in certainly pave the way for a stronger future in East Arnhem Land and, for that, we’re so grateful.

Nursing in Community

Quality nursing care is not only appreciated in community, it’s essential too. According to Bridging the Gap Foundation, there’s a nine-year gap in the average life expectancy between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians—a gap the government states can be attributed largely to chronic disease. By working in remote community settings, nurses can play a huge role in the prevention, detection, and management of chronic conditions, as well as providing day-to-day clinical assistance for acute issues (injuries, viruses and infections).

But is it all as simple as patients making an appointment, or coming into the clinic’s ER? The short answer…no.

Nursing in community can take many shapes and forms. Getting to clinic is not always easy for Yolŋu, so often outreach is the solution. Whether that means loading up a Troopie with flu injections and driving door-to-door or travelling hundreds of kilometers to attend special events in the Homelands, Miwatj nurses do it all.

Putting in the Time

When watching how Miwatj RANs go about their work, you’d be forgiven for thinking it all comes easily. This, however, is no small feat. Successful remote primary health care requires groundwork—time observing how the community works; establishing trust; and providing Yolŋu with the resources they need to choose to make use of Miwatj services, rather than it being something that’s forced upon them. This approach allows our RANs to establish long term relationships with those living in community, making efforts to close the health gap in Australia more successful in the long term.

The Smiles Say It All

A day in the life of a Miwatj Health Remote Area Nurse could look like the photo on the left, the photo on the right, or anywhere in between. The experience is something no amount of money can buy, with a reward that’s near impossible to beat. Many of our nurses get to see the communities they work in grow stronger and take more control of their health with every rotation they complete. From parents staying on top of childhood immunisations, to young women comfortable enough to ask for help around birth control and pregnancy, and older generations knowing to turn to clinic to prevent illnesses or receive vital treatment.

We’re always in awe of the ease with which our nurses operate and, from the smiles they receive in community, their patients are too. To all our nurses, every day as well as on International Nurses Day, thank you for all that you do. Your commitment to improving the health of those living across East Arnhem Land is astounding. Whether you’re the type of nurse who conducts vital screenings during beachside camps, you put in countless contact hours in our remote health care clinics, or you manage the team that does, know that we see you and we appreciate you. Happy International Nurses Day!

Miwatj Nurse conducts Health Screening during Women's Camp in Galiwin'ku
Remote Area Nurse works from clinic in Yirrkala.
International Council of Nurses banner for International Nurses Day 2023.