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A sting in the tale

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Occupational nurse standing beside ambulance

Managing a scorpion sting is all in a day’s work for occupational health nurse Michelle Curry. Working on remote oil and gas sites, she has to be prepared for anything and everything, and respond immediately.

‘Once the rig boss called to say a worker had been lifting a log when a scorpion stung him through his glove. I gave instructions and headed out in my 4WD straightaway,’ says Michelle, prepared to assess the situation and arrange for emergency helicopter evacuation if required.

No two days are ever the same for Michelle, who works in Queensland’s Surat Basin area for Aspen Medical. Along with her team, she looks after the medical needs of workers on several oil and gas mining sites. There are three such sites, within a 30-minute drive from her base.

‘The job is wide and varied; from primary healthcare to pre-employment and biannual medicals. I’ve treated broken ankles, damaged hands, heat stress, and chest pain. We also manage Return to Work plans, modifying a work role after an illness or injury.’

Michelle can contact an emergency doctor for guidance, and works in a team, with six other nurses on the east coast of Australia. ‘Even though I’m a solo medic and I love the autonomy, I know I’m not alone here. There are three Aspen Medical nurses in the area and we catch up daily, on the way to work and on the way back.

‘With Aspen Medical, we’ve built a solid working relationship with the workers and other key stakeholders. We’re part of their team as well as being part of the Aspen Medical team.’

Formerly FIFO (fly-in fly-out), Michelle loves her job so much she uprooted herself from Brisbane and re-located 300 kilometres north-east, to Chinchilla 12 months ago. The name of this rural town, with a population of just a few thousand, is said to come from the Barunggam word for cypress pine. 

‘Rather than two weeks in the field and two weeks back in Brisbane catching up, I wanted to go home at the end of each day.’  Now, after her 10-hour shift, she heads to the Chinchilla house she shares with her daughter. ‘It’s worked out exceptionally well – I’m doing a job I’m passionate about and am home every night.

‘Chinchilla is friendly and welcoming, peaceful and quiet. There’s no rush, no pressure. And we enjoy the local events; rodeos, camp drafts, and are looking forward to the next Chinchilla Melon Festival.

‘I was never a big city girl and can go back in my time off to see friends or catch a show.’

Here, in rural Queensland, one unexpected challenge is driving. ‘We do thousands of kilometres a year, on sealed and dirt roads, in our 4WD Landcruiser 2000 Emergency vehicle which is fitted out with all our equipment, including a stretcher,’ says Michelle.

‘We need to avoid harsh braking when we stop for echidnas or turtles crossing the road. Kangaroos are bigger, you can usually see them coming. On the plus side, we do have the most stunning sunrises and sunsets here, without a doubt.’

As for the scorpion sting victim, says Michelle, ‘When I arrived, he was sitting down and calm. He had some hand swelling but no spasms. It was fortunate he’d been bitten through his glove.

‘Luckily our scorpions are not deadly but they are dirty so I gave him a tetanus shot and more pain relief. He was monitored, reviewed 24 hours later, and was fine.’

Just another day in the field for Michelle.

Interested in a job like this?

According to Michelle, working as an occupational health nurse, you will need:

  • remote nursing and life support skills - ‘You may be the only clinician initially but you do have support’
  • confidence
  • good driving skills
  • the ability to work independently
  • to be personable and approachable - ‘Building relationships is key. Workers need to be able to trust you.’

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