With a passion for improving the mental health outcomes for people living in remote and rural communities, Rachel Ashton has proudly completed her last two clinical placements in the Northern Territory as part of her Bachelor of Nursing degree with CDU.
We asked Rachel about what motivated her through her study journey as well as her experiences on placement, and the challenges she faced along the way to become a Registered Nurse.
I've always had a passion for mental health
What motivated you to study Nursing at CDU?
Working in the aged care sector, I was initially offered a scholarship to study a Diploma of Nursing. After I completed this course, I enrolled in the Bachelor of Nursing through CDU.
I have always had a passion for mental health and once I became registered as an Enrolled Nurse, I managed to get a job in mental health recovery. This showed me that getting an education can dramatically help to get work in an industry you are passionate about.
I needed to work while I studied, so I couldn’t afford to be sitting in a classroom throughout the week, yet I also wanted the choice of being able to study full or part time. Being a very autonomous learner, the external study option with CDU suited me perfectly.
Tell us a little bit more about your clinical placement experience in the NT...
I really like how CDU works with the Centre for Remote Health: this has allowed me to do my last two clinical placements in the NT in some really remote places. While completing my clinical placement, I spent time in Ali Curung (1 week), Tennant Creek (2 weeks), Canteen Creek (3 weeks) and Hermannsburg (2 weeks). During placement in this communities, I gained practical experience in dialysis, primary health, as well as alcohol and other drugs.
The autonomy of working in remote clinics is a drawcard for me, as is providing a service to people at a grass-roots level. There is a wonderful camaraderie between the staff at all the clinics and hospitals I have been placed in, and everyone has made me feel very welcome and supported.
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to live in remote communities or to work as a remote-area nurse, I highly recommend doing a couple of clinical placements in the NT. It can be daunting because you are far away from home but the people you meet are extremely friendly and supportive.
One of the remote area nurses said to me: “We are all away from home, from our friends and family, so we make sure we support and care for each other out here”. That ethos has been upheld in every single place I’ve visited in the NT while on placement.
I have even been keeping a blog about my experiences in the NT as a nursing student: The Scribbling Nurse. Check it out!
I have learnt so much, especially about cultural sensitivity
Through my remote-area nursing placements, I have learnt to slow down, relax, and be thorough in my assessments, as well as to speak in plain English so everyone can understand what is being discussed. I have learnt so much, especially about cultural sensitivity. Accountability is enormous in Nursing and even more so in remote clinics.
What has been the most challenging aspect of studying for you?
Taking time off work and family for clinical placements has been very challenging. As those who work while studying would know, we tend to use almost all (if not all) of our annual leave on placements, which doesn’t allow us to have actual holidays.
It has crossed my mind to give up, however the desire to be a Registered Nurse kept me going.
Keep going because it will be worth it
Any advice for other Nursing students?
Keep your employer informed of clinical placements and simulation blocks so they aren’t sprung with having to give you time off.
Also, ask your friends and family to remind you of why you started your studies in the first place if ever you feel like you’re ready to throw in the towel. Your family and friends also need to be supportive of your study, so don’t feel selfish if you need to lock yourself away to complete assignments. Keep going because it will be worth it. It is an investment in your future and will pay off in dividends!
Wanting to quit sometimes is perfectly normal. I think we’ve all hit a wall throughout the course, so allow yourself time to get through the rough patch, but keep going, because you will finish it and it’ll all be worth it!
At CDU, we're passionate about creativity, sustainability, social justice and collective effort. How do you plan to make a difference and contribute to a better future with your degree?
After completing my Bachelor, I am planning to study a Master of Nursing (Nurse Practitioner).
I love the Northern Territory and will be pursuing a career as a Remote Area Nurse in the NT and also around Australia, particularly in mental health: the need for clinicians to support people living with a mental illness in rural or remote areas is much needed.
I will hopefully help educate future generations about keeping physically and mentally healthy, and hope to empower people to take control of their lives and futures. My mum qualified as an Enrolled Nurse at 65 and is an inspiration, proving that you can achieve whatever you put your mind to!
Ready to pursue your passion in Nursing in local or remote communities like Rachel? At CDU we offer clinical placements across Australia and simulation blocks in CDU's Darwin, Alice Springs or Sydney clinical practice suites.