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Sea Change!

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Registered Nurse standing on deck of ship

An email that arrived in Stephanie Pastula-Ramadier’s inbox last year changed her life.

After successfully securing the position advertised by Aspen Medical, she left her hometown of Hobart on a 94-metre Research Vessel.  As a registered nurse, Stephanie was now responsible for the health and well-being of some 60 crew members, marine scientists and postgraduate university students. She was on a six-week voyage in the Southern Ocean, halfway between Tasmania and Antarctica.

‘What kept me busiest was treating seasickness, myself included,’ she laughs. ‘Despite being a keen sailor, I’m not immune and that helped with my empathy for others.’

What kept Stephanie going was the incredible experience of being out at sea; entire days without a cloud in the sky and barely a breath of wind on dark blue mirror-like waters. ‘We happened upon minke whales, dolphins and beautiful seabirds. We had everything from snow to incredible sunshine, and windy, choppy seas.’

In between her shifts, she learnt about the vessel’s study of carbon sequestration in the polar and subpolar waters. ‘My interests and work lie with humans and so it was incredible to be with scientists whose interests were deep ocean and looking after our environmental future.

‘That’s what is great about my job and lifestyle, coming into contact with amazing people.’

This was just one of the many contracts that Stephanie has had for Rural LAP (Locum Assistance Program), a subsidiary of Aspen Medical. She’s worked in regional and remote communities from coast to desert; Kangaroo Island, Kingston and Roxby Downs in South Australia, to the Kimberley in Western Australia, Queensland’s Cape York, and Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory’s Top End. She’s thrived in temperatures from zero to more than 40 degrees centigrade. ‘Multiple layer thermals are great but personally I prefer hot and humid,’ says Stephanie.

‘My work gives me the freedom to fly to great places, get paid to travel and see Australia. I love my job and there are always contracts popping up. It’s a win-win situation.’

It’s also great for Stephanie’s professional practice. ‘I see how people do things differently, according to social, geographical and cultural areas. I think this pushes your scope of nursing and rounds you out as a professional.

‘So why stay in one place?’

Why indeed, when you can, just like Stephanie, get to pursue a love of remote nursing and working in Indigenous communities.

There, primary healthcare is her day-to-day concern, alongside chronic disease management and acute presentation. ‘The challenge is setting boundaries for clinic time. It’s easy to let your days bleed into one big hunk of work. Having time out is the key to sustainability and sanity.’

This can be, at the end of the day, collecting mud mussels with the women of East Arnhem Land while the men spear fish and stingray. ‘Then we sat on the beach together and cooked everything up over an open fire. In what other job can you get to know and be embraced by the local people like this?’

Stephanie takes on five to six contracts annually, combining this with casual shifts in a hospital emergency department and regular work on Truwana (Cape Barren Island), both for the Tasmanian Department of Health.

‘It’s a juggling act for sure and, yes, I miss family and friends when I’m away. But I can work really hard when a suitable contract is available, anything from one to eight weeks, and then have chunks of time off. That’s what great about working for Aspen Medical, having the perfect balance.’

But once home, she has fond memories to reflect on, such as a New Year’s Eve game of table tennis on the Antarctic Ocean. ‘We’d play up a wave and then down a wave, while watching the Sydney fireworks on TV. It was a dry vessel but we still had our bubbles - cordial in sparkling water.’

Interested in a job like this?

According to Stephanie, working as a remote clinician, you will need:

  • the appropriate qualifications, such in emergency nursing and Indigenous and maternal health. Stephanie is also an authorised nurse immuniser.
  • to be comfortable working autonomously, with Telehealth back-up
  • to be enthusiastic and dynamic – ‘learn new ways of doing things’
  • to be open – ‘take a step back and change your world view’
  • to be culturally aware
  • to be flexible
  • to be friendly and smiling – ‘that goes a long way’
  • to be patient – ‘everything takes time, so much longer in a remote setting’.

For more information about joining Aspen Medical’s Clinical team, email our Recruitment team.

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