Graphic: Falling in love with the outback and the people who call it home
Nurse Neridah King swapped the grape-lined Barossa for Mount Isa with one goal in mind – to improve health outcomes for people living in outback Queensland.
Neridah explains people living in rural and remote areas can often struggle with self-managing their chronic illnesses due to limited resources or access to GPs. That’s what has inspired her decade-long career as a primary health care nurse, and the reason behind her joining the RFDS just over a year ago.
“My role is to help these individuals move from reactive health care into proactive treatment plans,” Neridah says.
As a PHC nurse, Neridah specialises in chronic disease management, focusing on chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (emphysema, chronic bronchitis and in some cases asthma).
While based out of Mount Isa, Neridah flies to different rural and remote communities and clinics across Queensland up to three times a week.
“Believe it or not, I was terrified of flying before starting my role with the Flying Doctor,” Neridah shares.
“There was a moment two weeks in that I questioned if I was capable of flying so regularly. But, after getting to know the amazing locals within the communities I was travelling to - many of who rely on RFDS as their only regular source of health care - my fears started to go away.”
“I have no worries about flying now and instead cherish the moments when I can enjoy the beautiful landscape as part of the journey. Plus, RFDS pilots are incredible and would always put me at ease during the early weeks.”
Before starting with the RFDS, Neridah had never experienced regional life quite like outback Queensland.
“At first, I was shocked to see the extent of how restricted some services are in remote areas. There are communities so remote their GP service is only available every two weeks.
I quickly learned of the scope of services rolled out by the RFDS to bridge this gap, such as the Medical Chests that are available to isolated families and communities to treat medical conditions with a doctor or healthcare provider always available on the other end of the phone.”
“Oh, and nothing can prepare you for the heat!”
In her first few months with the RFDS, Neridah played a vital role in the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines across rural and regional Queensland - a service that was essential to protecting vulnerable communities during peak pandemic periods.
“The vaccine program was an invaluable growth period in my early months as it allowed me to meet with community members at a rapid pace and promote my services. Many of my existing patients were identified through the vaccination program as they saw an opportunity to ask a nurse about their health while also getting their vaccination.”
“By getting that face time with so many locals across a short period, I was able to talk to them about other ways we can support their healthcare needs and answer their questions on the spot. The trust journey was fast-tracked in a sense.”
Neridah says working for the RFDS is the best experience of her life so far, personally and professionally. But, the most rewarding part is giving back to Queenslanders every day.
“I am inspired each and every day by the communities I visit and the team I work with as part of the RFDS. I can’t imagine leaving regional Queensland - I have truly fallen in love with the outback.”