2015 Scholarships Recipient – Anthony Curtis

Anthony Curtis – Nursing Student

With the generous support of a Rustica scholarship I was able to complete a four-week rural clinical placement at the St Helens District Hospital on the sunny north-east coast of Tasmania. I am a second year Bachelor of Nursing student and this placement gave me invaluable experience in rural, general medical, community and emergency nursing.

While nowhere is very far away in Tasmania, St Helens is a solid 3-4 hour drive from Hobart; the town itself is the largest centre on the east coast with a population of around 1500 people. Like many seaside towns in Australia there are a high proportion of retirees and is a popular holiday destination for many Tasmanians. St Helens is renowned for the amazing fishing provided within Georges Bay and offshore, especially game fishing for large pelagic species like Tuna and Marlin. The town is also close to the Bay of Fires conservation area, which is well known for its spectacular coastal scenery. The UTAS Centre for Rural Health provides visiting students with excellent shared accommodation, which was only a 5 minute walk from the Hospital and the town centre.

The hospital is located in St Helens; the facility has 10 acute care beds and a 5 bed Accident and Emergency department. The hospital operates with a rotational roster of on-call doctors from the local GP clinic; there is no doctor on staff, which is a big contrast to the large tertiary Hospitals like the Royal Hobart, where there is a full range of medical staff on call at a moment’s notice. The hospital also has very limited diagnostic facilities. There is a radiographer, who can provide x-rays, and the nursing staff can complete basic blood tests onsite; but for any other diagnostic tests the patient has to be transported either by road or air to the Launceston General. This forces the medical and nursing staff to rely on ‘traditional’ physical assessments rather than technology to assist them with diagnosis and treatment.

The key professional development highlight was taking my own patient load and dealing with every aspect of their care for each shift; this allowed me to cement my knowledge and put into practice a range of skills that I may not have used in a more specialised setting. The close working relationship I developed with the medical staff was also a highlight of my placement. When you are working in very small teams in an isolated setting you certainly develop your teamwork and multi-tasking skills.

I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to undertake a clinical placement at this facility; I was able to experience a broad range of presentations in a supportive and highly professional environment. The opportunity to experience emergency nursing in a rural setting illustrated the problems faced by medical personnel in rural and remote settings, especially when treating critically ill patients.

I would like to thank Rustica for assisting me to complete this rural placement; it has been a fantastic learning opportunity and encouraged me to work in a rural facility after graduation