Meet the team - Genevieve Lewis, Clinical Coordinator

In this month’s eBulletin we feature Genevieve Lewis, RAHC Clinical Coordinator for the Central Australia and Barkly regions. Based in our Alice Springs Office, Genevieve provides Health Professionals (HPs) with both face-to-face and telephone support before and during their placements. Genevieve also coordinates Remote Educator (RE) support for new-to-remote HPs.

Tell us about your career before getting in to remote health?

I began my nursing career at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital and continued paediatric nursing children for a number of years after becoming a Registered Nurse (RN). In the late 70s I moved to Port Elliot, South Australia (SA) to work in the small regional hospital at Victor Harbor.

I took some time off to have a family then when I returned to work I had a change in career and I ended up spending the next 18 years working in aged care, firstly in the south-coast SA area before heading back to work the Adelaide region.

Why did you get in to remote health?

I developed a keen interest in remote area nursing and Indigenous health after going on a number of school excursions to the Fregon community in the South Australian APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) Lands as a volunteer nurse with groups of rowdy Year 7 students. The introduction to Indigenous language and culture through this exchange was tremendous and it inspired in me a need to look at my lifestyle and direction in my nursing career.

With little idea of where I was headed and no experience as a Remote Area Nurse (RAN) I applied for – and was accepted into – the position of the Second Nurse for Oak Valley Community in South Australia. After only two weeks in the community my colleague went on leave and I was totally unprepared for the experience. Looking back, I now find myself saying that there was no curve to that learning, I felt like I had hit a wall. However, the challenge was great both personally and professionally.

The great support from the local people living in this very isolated community gave me the courage to continue. They were so welcoming, both into their community and their culture and were such a pleasure to work with.

In 2006 I moved from Oak Valley to the community of Areyonga in the Northern Territory (NT), roughly four hours west of Alice Springs, where I commenced as a RAN in a two-nurse clinic, eventually becoming the Health Centre Manager. I remained at Areyonga for six years and had the privilege of working with an amazing Aboriginal Health Practitioner (AHP) as well as gaining so much knowledge from the various visiting HPs who passed through on their placements.

Why did you get involved with RAHC?

As a Health Centre Manager in the NT, I had first-hand experience with RAHC as they provided us with HPs for short-term placements. It can be hard to fill positions at remote clinics.
In the early days of RAHC, especially before the Remote Educator program, I provided a lot of support for new-to-remote nurses coming to us through RAHC. The satisfaction of supporting new-to-remote nurses during their first placement and seeing them return for another is immense.
It was November 2012 when I officially joined RAHC as the Clinical Coordinator for Central Australia and Barkly and have been in that role since.

What else would you like to tell us?

From my early experiences as a Remote Area Nurse (RAN) it’s great to now be working in a support role for both experienced and NtR RANs. I believe that RAHC plays a great role in helping to ensure that nurses wanting to make the change in lifestyle or career can do so with good support.
Working occasionally as an RE at RAHC has also been great experience, providing me with so much insight into the very various communities in which RAHC nurses work on their placements.

Anything you would like to say to Health Professionals thinking about joining RAHC?

Being accepted into communities and having the opportunity to work with Indigenous people in their own countries has been one of the greatest privileges in my nursing career, and if you are thinking about getting involved I would highly recommend it!

Thursday, 22 May 2014