Jenni Cullen - Remote Area NP

Jenni Cullen - Remote Area NP

Jenni Cullen – Remote Area NP

Born in New Zealand and travelled all over Australia, Jenni is a qualified nurse practitioner working as a remote area nurse in Elliott, an indigenous community halfway between Darwin and Alice Springs and is focused on making a positive change in regional Northern Territory.

Married with eight kids who have left the nest and are now creating families of their own all over Australia, Jenni fell into the profession of nursing after visiting a careers day at a local university in Perth and wound up being inspired to sign up for a nursing course which kick-started her passion for making a positive contribution to the community.

Why did you decide to become a nurse practitioner?

I’ve always had a passion for helping others and finding out as much as I can about health and when I found myself in Perth looking for a career that would incorporate caring for people and contributing in a positive way to the community becoming an RN was the career that stood out.

Before long I went from looking for a pottery class to enrolling to be a registered nurse and graduated in 2000. I went onto get my graduate diploma in child and family health and then started working remotely after moving to Katherine in a role focused on drugs and alcohol as well as mental health work within the community.

What is unique about your role in the community?

Being a remote area nurse and living permanently in an indigenous community such as Elliott means the nursing team are on call at all times and we treat everything from coughs to heart attacks right through to breach babies.

While we are remote nurses, being a trained and qualified nurse practitioner allows me to work closely with doctors and provide the insight I’ve gained from my NP studies and experience. I’m proud to be contributing in a positive way and working to improve the lives of members of the indigenous community in which I’m apart of.

What is a typical day for you in your NP role?

In Elliott, the focus is on controlling chronic diseases such as diabetes and as remote area nurse, I spend a great deal of my time promoting healthy lifestyles choices, educating members of the community to increase the understanding of diabetes, and providing nursing support that is relevant to the community.

I spend my time educating new and expectant mothers about the basics of diabetes and how understanding how to lower blood sugar levels can help to seriously reduce the risk of miscarriage and issues with gestational diabetes. It can take 4 to 5 hours to get the Royal Flying Doctors to fly in if there is an emergency, so we are very much isolated when it comes to emergency medical support so we do need to work with what we have at times.

Recently, we had a case of a mother going into labour and having issues delivering due to the baby being in a breach position. Due to being so isolated, we called into our specialist doctors in Alice Springs via video who were able to direct the procedure and delivery to ensure we had a positive outcome.

The baby and the mother survived thanks to the support of a remote nurse and health worker who provided the necessary emotional and physical support during the delivery.

What are you hoping to achieve in your role as NP?

All I am focused on in my role is to contribute in a positive way and provide education in a community where resources are very scarce. Nursing is part of who I am and I can’t see myself doing anything else, and my passion is what drives me to continuously work to educate the community and focus on my patients to provide holistic support for their health needs.

In nursing, we look at the whole patient, not just the symptoms, to focus on the physical injury or illness as well as the social and emotional side to the patient’s health. I am focused on taking into account every aspect of the lives of the patients I treat to provide the complete and holistic care they need to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.

If you weren’t an NP, what would you be doing?

There is nothing I would rather be than a nurse practitioner, and I genuinely believe this professional is part of who I am. Some within the industry talk about nurse practitioners as having ‘the heart of a nurse and the brains of a doctor’, and I couldn’t agree more!  Becoming a nurse practitioner took my learning to a whole new level and allowed me to gain the information and learning I crave and inevitably lead me to the position I am in now in a remote Aboriginal community doing what I love day in day out.