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Nurse hits the road with new RFDS program in WA.

Registered nurse Wendy Evans and her project officer husband Paul Evans recently took on a new health promotion program being delivered by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). For almost 80 years the RFDS has been providing emergency medical and primary health services across Australia. Thanks to the introduction of a unique health care program 'RFDS on the road', the service is now delivering health education and support to some of the most isolated people in regional Western Australia.

The program, which was recently launched at the RFDS Kalgoorlie base, will be delivered by Wendy and Paul who will take a fully equipped 4WD vehicle and head into some of the remote areas in the region. The husband and wife team will be visiting people living on stations, satellite mine sites, Indigenous communities, road houses and exploration camps.

The team will promote health lifestyle awareness, educate people on the management of RFDS medical chests, and provide practical first aid training, health checks, advice and support. Information on the preparation and maintenance of remote aircraft landing strips is also a key part of the program.

The vast areas of remote and rural Western Australia are not unfamiliar territory for Wendy and Paul, who spent 20 years farming in the wheat belt, then moved to the south-west where they lived and worked in Bunbury. Wendy worked in a variety of positions for Silver Chain in community nursing, aged care and palliative care. The couple were enticed to the goldfields when Wendy saw an advertisement for the RFDS 'on the road' position. Following an initial orientation at the Jandakot RFDS base, the couple relocated to Kalgoorlie and have been busy establishing local health care contacts and made some visits to local primary schools. "With two daughters already living in Kalgoorlie-Boulder and a bit of an idea of the lifestyle involved, we decided to apply", Wendy said. "Paul has plenty of vehicle maintenance, four wheel driving experience and bush savvy, so we feel like the position suits us very well We are really excited to have an opportunity to work together and get out there and meet people," Wendy said.

Pilbara RFDS on the road team member Norm Crance has spent some time with the couple, joining them on visits and training them in the use of satellite and UHF communication. One of the popular aspects of visits to Pilbara community events has been the delivery of men's health 'pit stops' which run along the lines of a vehicle pit stop. The men's health 'pit stop' checks include: chassis--abdominal obesity; torsion--flexibility; oil pressure--blood pressure; spark plugs--testicular cancer; exhaust--smoking; fuel additives--alcohol; and duco--skin cancer.

Norm says likening the human body to a car appeals to men's almost universal interest in motoring as well as their sense of humour. "The greatest thing though is the way you are so well received when you get out to some of these places. There is huge personal satisfaction in the job, especially when people are so appreciative of you coming." The personal approach is something Wendy and Paul also look forward to with enthusiasm. "We have already made a few visits and had people ask, 'When are you coming back'?", Wendy said. "Hearing that sort of reaction makes it very worthwhile."

With sponsorship from BHP Billiton, the program was piloted in the Pilbara region in 2004 and has been running successfully ever since. BHP Billiton Nickel West is providing the funding to make the Goldfields Esperence program a reality.
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Title Annotation:working life; Royal Flying Doctor Service
Author:Evans, Wendy; Evans, Paul
Publication:Australian Nursing Journal
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 1, 2008
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