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Nursing the outback

Bush Nurses Edited by Annabelle Brayley Penguin Books Australia, 2013 RRP $29.99

Bush Nurses starts with a story about a nurse who saves a baby in-utero by physically holding the cord off the baby’s neck until the flying doctor can arrive as backup. Right from the beginning this book consistently delivers fascinating stories.

Healthcare is offered very differently away from the big city in regional areas, and between regional and remote country areas there’s an even bigger difference. But it takes a pretty special kind of person to undertake nursing in outback clinics when the nearest doctor is only available by calling in the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Anything can and usually does happen. Bush Nurses celebrates the special people who provide this care and allows them to offer some insight into their world in their own words.

Author Annabelle Brayley is a retired nurse who loves to hear people tell their stories. Now, as a regular contributor to OUTBACK magazine, she often gets to indulge this passion. The stories contained in Bush Nurses give just a glimpse into the world of life and work in an outback clinic. There are tear-jerking moments including the account of a tragic weekend in north-west

New South Wales where a long-awaited holiday was interrupted by a house fire, killing two children. There is also the heartbreaking story of a fatal car rollover on the way to a race meet. But there are laugh-out-loud moments too, including the story of a nurse who, although trained to help human patients, ends up working on an animal companion instead. It goes to show that an understanding of veterinary medicine doesn’t go astray if heading outback.

The stories contained in these pages are ones of resilience, self-discovery and creative engagement with the bureaucratic rules made by people who don’t understand outback communities. Bush Nurses also offers rare insights into some of the earliest Australian Inland Mission nurses and the way they handled the isolation and limited medical facilities to help provide the “mantle of safety” John Flynn envisaged. It is these continuing ideals and commitment lived out in outback Australia which have inspired Penguin books to donate royalties from the sale of this book to Frontier Services in recognition of 100 years of service to rural and remote Australia.

Matt Gees

Photo : Bush Nurses Edited by Annabelle Brayley Penguin Books Australia, 2013 RRP $29.99

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