Nursing Careers Allied Health
A few years ago she spent six months volunteering in Papua New Guinea for Australian Doctors International. Next month she’s wrapping up her project at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to return for round two.
“My volunteer experience was about learning and beginning to understand another country and culture,” she says”, pointing out that PNG has appalling health statistics and is in great need of improved health services.
“I was able to utilise a range of skills, bringing them together in a practical way – ‘back to basics’ – without having to worry about all the peripheral stuff like here at home.”
Louise was based in the mountains of Western Province near the border of West Papua. She facilitated an inaugural in-service training program for 59 rural health workers and hospital staff, all of whom work without any doctor supervision.
She also worked hand-in-hand with the region’s local health service provider, Catholic Health Services, to strengthen their management skills; assisted the volunteer doctor and MCH staff on patrols to outlying health centres and aid posts; and even transported village patients by 4WD to the district hospital.
“My assignment offered great variety, interesting challenges, frustrating times and good fun,” says Louise.
“It was difficult seeing patients with very advanced disease and little to offer them, and there were daily frustrations with getting even the simplest things done. However, my good memories include the simple lifestyle, making new friends, being welcomed by villagers, and balmy evening walks where everyone says hello.”
An accomplished nurse who’s also worked with the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and the Department of Human Services in Victoria, Louise is looking forward to returning to PNG.
This time she’s headed to the opposite side of the country to the isolated island region of New Ireland Province. Here, idyllic tropical beaches co-exist with tuberculosis, malaria, leprosy and yaws.
“There’s an enormous amount of work to be done in PNG,” says Louise. “Knowing what to expect will mean less cultural shock so I can jump straight into the work. I'm realistic about what can be achieved in a relatively short time [five months] and look forward to making small incremental changes that matter.”
Louise’s volunteer assignment runs from February to May this year. Australian Doctors International is currently recruiting a Project Health Manager to take over her role.