Why on Earth would I leave the fold that is Alice Springs Remote Health Service....(ASRHS)
I left ASRHS amidst much stress and angst. The stresses of working as a single nurse in an aboriginal community with little community or organisational support are enormous. I suffered from an episode of traumatic stress/anxiety brought on by constant exposure to violence, shocking conditions in the community, threats of physical harm, petrol sniffing, vandalism, theft, general lack of infrasructure, lack of police or any other authority figures and an all pervasive sense of hopelessness. The angst came after poor treatment at the hands of management. By ignoring my pleas to be transferred management failed miserably in their duty to support me and then after "burning out" and suffering stress and anxiety, failed to ascertain my needs and assist me to return to work in a non threatening environment. They even went so far as to threaten and intimidate me accusing me all sorts of things to do with cultural appropriateness and management skills (without consulting with anyone who had actually worked alongside me for any length of time).
It surprised me that in the current climate of nurse shortages particularly in remote areas that an organisation which often has trouble attracting enough applicants (especially males to deal with men's health), wouldn't do their best to retain staff. Its a funny old world isn't it? Luckily, the people sitting in those management positions are temporary and I can only hope that when permanent management are appointed they will be better equipped to handle such situations.
On a brighter note I got a lot of support from fellow staff and more senior management in Territory Health who were shocked at my treatment and had an understanding of and could acknowledge the stressors at play in such a place.... As I write this it is 7 months since my untimely departure from ASRHS. (And it is interesting to note that several male RN's have left the service in that time...and at least 1 female RN who was treated so badly that she reckons she will never nurse again. (I tried to explain to her that not all people in management are so insensitive and that in more than 20 years of nursing it was the worst I'd come across) I wrote a letter of complaint about my treatment last December and the initial reply was less than favourable with them telling me that they behaved professionally and appropriately and that my memory of events was flawed. (despite the fact that I started keeping a diary of events as soon as it looked like I was being treated unfairly) The person who "co-ordinated" the "investigation" felt that the people involved had no need to apologise for anything. After this I contacted a person in more senior management who had played a role at the time in trying to redress the wrongs being done to me at the time (unsucessfully). Apparently during the "investigation" no-one had asked her anything about it. After asking her for further help I have finally received a letter containing an apology, a promise to clear my record of any negative comments relating to this incident and an offer to re-imburse me for relocation back to my point of employment (Cairns). The main offender in the saga who was acting in her role has been moved back to where she came from and it's more than likely she has blown her chances of acting in that role again. Finally after 8 months the injustice has been acknowledged and I can move on in the knowledge that in future any nurse who finds themselves in a similar situation will be likely to be treated more sensitively than I was
Anyway since resigning I haven't looked back. I have worked contracting my services to an Aboriginal Health Service in Far Northern South Australia and I have been working in the Torres Straits (Between North Eastern Queensland and Papua New Guinea) on 2 different islands. I've actually been back and forth between Cairns and Central Australia so many times I have lost count. Like a boomerang I just keep coming back! Now that I have bought a house in Cairns I hope the frequency of my travels will lessen somewhat although I still intend to do a bit of remote work. I really feel the need to be a bit urban for a while and indulge myself with things like newspapers that I can read on the day they are published, cappucino's, movies, things like that....
Even though things did'nt quite work out as I hoped in Central Australia, it was a valuable experience and I dont regret having done it.
I'm looking forward to getting back to the Cairns lifestyle and fixing up the house and making furniture.
Late Breaking news !!!
A recent copy of the Centralian Advocate (Alice Springs) had an article telling of a recent incident in the same community I was in where the two nurses (yes NOW there are two!) were chased around the community by a man weilding a knife in a car. The nurses were in the clinic vehicle and apparently were rammed a couple of times... MMMmmm..sort of makes one feel vindicated...