Meet RN Richard: My way of becoming a more competent clinician

RN Richard

“I first started working as an Enrolled Nurse in 2013 at the age of 39, and as a Registered Nurse in 2016. Prior to that I was a woolclasser, truck driver, and sheep farmer.”

1. When and why did you decide to do agency nursing?

Agency nursing started out of professional necessity. My grad year as an RN was a nightmare. It took a couple of years to recover my confidence and get my first job in a hospital, in a rehab ward in Launcesto. This was my first trip to Tasmania and I became hooked on travel nursing, and Tasmania!

I have struggled with my mental health throughout my life. Agency nursing became a vehicle for me to force myself out of my comfort zone to take control of my anxiety, rather than my anxiety controlling me. I cope with my problems by filling my life with adventure as a self-indulgent way of leading by example and demonstrating that we can contribute so much more to the world.
Solo camping and travel, bike-packing in Tasmania, multi-day outback motorcycle adventures, kayaking and bushwalking are all activities that push my mental boundaries.

My travel nursing adventures are my way of tackling life’s challenges head-on, of becoming a more competent clinician and of developing my leadership and teamwork skills through challenging and reflective solitude. Travel nursing with Affinity has helped me to overcome personal challenges to become the person I want to be, to achieve a pinnacle of clinical leadership and personal achievement.

2. How has your time been at Tennant Creek?

Tennant Creek has been interesting. This is my introduction into Aboriginal health, and a component of my professional development to become capable of clinical leadership in any health setting. Here I have found the right mix of supportive workplace and clinical skills development that will improve my safety and competence when I progress to a remote clinic.

3. What do you do to switch off and relax after a shift?

I have a vegetable garden growing, beans and tomatoes are currently being harvested and the carrots and beetroot are not far off! I head out on the mountain bike around the hills, and to the dam while the water is there. I usually take my camera and tripod to capture the breathtaking evening twilight sights. On other contracts I would head out on the road bike, but I prefer to stay off the roads around here.

My vehicle broke down on the way here and had to be sent back home for repairs, but I have my lightweight adventure bike, a twenty year old 250cc Kawasaki Super Sherpa, which provides me with a bit of freedom to get out of town.

4. You are currently on your 3rd placement with us – what has been the highlight of working with Affinity so far?

I joined Affinity to work in Tasmania, and arriving at Mersey Hospital at the start of the covid outbreak was interesting. I then moved to the Med-ICU Covid ward at NWRH-Burnie shortly after it opened and gained valuable experience in that sort of nursing. I love North West Tasmania, and the bushwalking, camping, and cycling even during the winter months is a great adventure. So many of the Affinity nurses there are really into exploring the outdoors and having a great time. Working and exploring around Burnie is definitely the highlight of working with Affinity!

When I returned to Victoria in July 2020, and got stuck in Victoria due to the travel restrictions, Affinity were able to keep me working with a couple of aged care roles in North West Victoria. They supported me through some workplace issues, then went into bat for me when I was upgraded to Nurse Unit Manager. When I travelled to Alice Springs for the Transition to Remote Area Nursing course in March, Affinity were able to place me at Tennant Creek within days of finishing the course. This has been a perfect placement for my professional development in the context of my limited clinical background.

Taken with the TG-6 mounted to a tripod, with a 30 second exposure at low ISO to absorb the detail into the image. Richard highly recommends for any outdoor adventurers out there.

5. You have taken many beautiful photos – do you have a favourite shot? What’s the story behind it?

Although Affinity nurses might only see my landscape and adventure photos, I actually really enjoy macro photography, and for that my favourite camera is my Olympus TG-6. My pick is a photo of a fungus that I found under a log right next to the path to Leven Canyon in Tasmania.

Why I like it is it’s simplicity and natural beauty that cannot be improved on by image optimisation.I also nearly didn’t see it, because it was hidden! It’s only by taking time to study and appreciate what is around you that such images are created. Tasmania has many very colourful species of fungi, more so than anywhere else I have been to.

I originally studied Agricultural Science on leaving school, and I am passionate about ecological balance. If frogs are a measure of catchment health, diversity of fungi must be a measure of soil health. Occasionally I’ll put my photos up on my instagram “naturalharvest” for anyone who wants to see them.

6. What do you enjoy most about the travel nurse lifestyle?

The freedom to go where I want and to explore every part of Australia, while the destination often remains a mystery. A couple of years ago I drove from the southern most campground in Tasmania to Cooktown within a three month period, without planning it. I went from a job in Hobart, to Moree, to Port Douglas, back to Hamilton in Victoria, with only a few weeks notice between each job. I love the surprise aspect of the journey, and it really helps that I make the most out of every mile in the journey, taking time to absorb the environment along the way.

7. What advice would you tell other Nurses who want to do travel nursing?

Don’t try to cram in a world tour in a year. Go slow, absorb what is around you, find wonder and adventure wherever you happen to be. You have the rest of your life ahead of you. When I set the camera to a 30 second exposure I end up with a nicer image than a quick snap of a fraction of a second. The same could be said for the way we travel. The wealth is in taking time to absorb the details from the shadows with a long depth of field.

If you are driving in an area without mobile phone coverage, carry a UHF radio and a personal locator beacon. My vehicle broke down 75km south of Tennant Creek. I had to call up a passing motorist on the UHF, and get them to deliver a message to the Hospital. I also have RACV TotalCare, and it has saved me money over the years, even with pushbike breakdowns! They sent the car home for me with no cost to me.

Research what is available in a town before you get there, and purchase supplies and comfort items before you get there. Don’t be afraid to ask for more than is offered, especially if you are not driving. Little things like a pushbike, particular cooking items or other comfort items may be available if you ask.

There is lots of support available: from Affinity, CRANAplus, ACN, ANMF, and the workplace. As an agency nurse you can easily slip through the support gaps.Be assertive and don’t be afraid to speak up, and allow for personal spending on professional development opportunities.

If you’re inspired by RN Richard’s story, sign up with Affinity now!

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