Rewards beyond the comfort zone

Flinders University final year nursing student Jenna Bowles, recently undertook an eight-week placement at the Gove District Hospital (GDH) in Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory’s East Arnhem Land, one of the most untouched, unique areas in Australia.

‘I arrived in Nhulunbuy feeling completely out of my comfort zone and not knowing a single person, but this place of uncertainty soon became home to lifelong friends, unforgettable experiences, strengthened knowledge and a stronger appreciation for Australia and our First Nations Peoples. ‘Through this placement I gained greater confidence, not only in my nursing practices, but also in myself and my ability to adapt to unfamiliar places’. ‘I never imagined that this nursing placement would have such a significant impact on me’, Jenna reflects.

East Arnhem Land is rich in culture, where traditional Aboriginal practices are still integral to everyday life. The traditional owners of the land, the Yolŋu people, are lively and expressive. They practice a verbal and artistic culture that reflects a strong connection to land, through song writing, ceremonies and dances, kinship and bush medicines. Jenna quickly learnt to adapt to the preferred way of living for many of the patients she cared for at GDH. Learning some Yolgnu Matha language allowed her to communicate more freely with the Yolŋu and overcome some cultural differences. ‘As modern medicine and hospital settings are not part of the Yolŋu culture, it was inspiring to see nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals be so accommodating in the way healthcare is delivered and translated to Yolŋu’, says Jenna.

Outside of GDH, Jenna spent time with St Johns and Careflight, two essential health services that assist with the delivery of rural healthcare to remote areas. She also became familiar with other organisations such as Miwatj and Laynhapuy, who visit homelands by ‘troopy’.

During her downtime, Jenna took the opportunity to explore the Gove Peninsula, finding herself with locals and other students four wheel driving to remote Homelands, swimming in pools, beaches and natural swimming holes and rivers, fishing in the river mangroves, enjoying campfire dinners on the beach, cycling and playing tennis, netball and footy.

‘I cannot express my gratitude enough to the phenomenal Flinders NT and GDH staff who supported me throughout my time in Gove, and I would personally like to thank Chloe Lyons, Margot Wall and Erica Petrovic from Flinders NT, and David Fisher from GDH for their continuous support’, says Jenna.

Although my time was abruptly cut short with Covid-19 restrictions, I hold this experience very close to my heart and look forward to the day I can return to the beautiful East Arnhem Land and reunite with the people of Nhulunbuy. Nhäma Yalala, see you later!

Jenna Bowles at the Gove runway, during a visit to the Careflight Base at Gove Airport


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Flinders NT Remote and Rural Interprofessional Placement Learning NT (RIPPL NT) Student Placements