To dear Alice – and Hermannsburg, too

Jillian McCool in Central Australia, during her Go Rural visit

By Jillian McCool, Flinders University medical student

And so it begins … with weary heads but a great sense of excitement, Emily and I made our first FB check-in at Darwin Airport: “embarking on a desert adventure!” I’d heard so much about Alice Springs that I couldn’t wait to get amongst it and experience it for myself.

On arriving in Alice, we were both surprised how dry the heat was compared to Darwin. In the lead-up to our trip, many of my desert-experienced friends were trying to educate me on heat preparedness. Apparently lots of H2O, sunscreen and moisturiser are key.

We were met by our fantastic and vivacious hosts, D & Jo who dropped us at our accommodation before we went exploring the town. We wandered up Gap Road into Todd Mall and had a look around. There are some fabulous cafes, dress shops and art stores through the mall. We retraced our steps back down Gap Road and had a delicious lunch at one of the town’s best vegetarian cafes, Tea Shrine.

Later that afternoon we met up with the rest of the crew at the NT Health Workforce office for a briefing on the Go Rural itinerary. It was obvious we were going to see some incredible places and meet some great, committed people.

D then took us on our first adventure – to the dunes. As I stood with the others on that red sandy rise, I wondered what the treatment might be for partial thickness foot burns from the radiating heat. I certainly hoped the photo would be worth it (it was, of course – D’s pix are wonderful & my feet were fine). A fine way to end the day.


We headed out to Hermannsburg. One of my closest friends first fell in love with the Territory after working here, so I was quite excited to visit.

The town has a population of around 800 and our destination was the community clinic which is staffed by a GP, Remote Area Nurses and Aboriginal Health Workers. We were fortunate to speak to Sylvia, the clinic manager, who has an incredible knowledge of rural and Indigenous health.

With a background in nursing, I kept thinking of the “what ifs” of rural and remote health. Having only worked in metropolitan settings, I’ve always had backup at my fingertips. If someone was crashing before my eyes, I would press a button on the wall and a crash team would magically appear. If I ran out of a particular medication, I caught the lift down to the pharmacy and would have it within minutes.

Working in a remote community must require such a high level of skill, dedication and resourcefulness. I really hope that I get to return to Hermannsburg to work one day. There is so much to learn there.

Afterwards we headed to the Centre for Disease Control at Alice Springs, where we met with Dr Yip who specialises in public health. Dr Yip’s passion was obvious and her talk reignited my interest in public health.

We then ventured over to Purple House, a place that delivers haemodialysis to people who have had to move into town from outlying communities. The organisation delivers holistic care in a warm and friendly environment. As a trained renal nurse, it was refreshing to see such a relaxed environment that helps to reduce some of the barriers that people face when accessing quality health care. It’s in stark contrast to the clinical hospital environments in which I am so used to seeing patients with renal disease.

All in all, I’m absolutely loving my time in Alice!

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2 Responses to To dear Alice – and Hermannsburg, too

  1. Louise- Jordan says:

    Jillian McCools description of visiting Hermannsberg led me to reminisce about my time there as a nurse in 1986. Completely unprepared I arrived in an annual leave relief position, it was a wonderful experience and the support offered by Alice Springs Hospital was reassuring, I never felt alone in decision making and I would recommend nurses to seek clinical experience in Rural and remote sites. In my experience, there is no better way to improve your clinical judgement and to foster the ability to consult with peers about your clinical assessment and management planning. In fact I have felt more alone in busy metropolitan hospitals where peers are reluctant to share information and protect themselves from criticism by not sharing.

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  2. The Go-Rural visit sounds like it is an amazing eye opener for students of medicine. It would be beneficial for those people who complain about metropolitan hospitals to visit some rural towns and then they would realize how much easier they have it.

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