From Darwin, with love
They say never smile at a crocodile, but try telling that to Danni-Lee Dean.
The nursing and midwifery officer at the National Rural Health Student Network (NRHSN) has been nursing a desire for a crocodilian encounter for some time.
Wrangling reptiles wasn't the only experience snapped up by the nursing student from the University of Notre Dame in Western Australia.
During Go Rural, Danni-Lee got to meet a variety of NT health professionals. She visited clinics and health services in Barunga, Batchelor and Katherine - seeing how people work together to meet the diverse health needs of the Territory.
Along the way she cooled off at wondrous croc-free places like Florence Falls and Edith Falls.
She also got to speak at length to remote nursing stalwart Anne Carey, WA's Australian of the Year, about her work in Africa combating Ebola.
"She was kind, warm-hearted and encouraging towards me," recalls Danni-Lee. "Anne is an admirable role model, an advocate for all, but most of all a modest heroine."
Anne was guest speaker at the NT PHN and Northern Territory General Practice Education (NTGPE) Compass Teaching and Learning Conference 2016, attended by 120 health professionals and their families.
This year's Compass Conference was the final destination for the Go Rural travellers, giving them the opportunity to listen, learn and network with some of the best in the business.
Danni-Lee was one of a group of six medical, nursing and allied health students from around Australia selected for the trip - part of the national Go Rural campaign run by Rural Health Workforce Australia.
The scene was set on day one when the group was put through their paces with a cultural education session run by NTGPE.
"The hospital scenario in the role-reversal video opened not only my eyes but my heart," says Danni-Lee.
"We learnt of avoidance relationships, kinship, skin-ship and how cultural understanding impacts healthcare delivery."
These messages rang true when the group called in at the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, where they were warmly embraced by Dr Sue Stanton before meeting with Aboriginal Health Practitioners and Aboriginal Health Workers.
It was there that Danni-Lee met Jodie Millar, who is studying a Certificate III in Community Services and has been working at a safe house for women who have experienced family violence.
"We spoke of family, and the struggles of balancing work, life and study...and we laughed a lot. And there it was, I fell in love with the Northern Territory.
"On saying goodbye, Jodie told me she hopes to work with me one day and next time she saw me she would call me 'Sister'."
Danni-Lee is also thankful for the career guidance she received from Margaret Brice at the Batchelor Clinic and Katherine Hospital nurse Tarrant Tolotta.
Others who influenced her thoughts were Dr Peter Fitzpatrick from the Wurli-Wurlinjang Health Service, NRHSN alumni Dr Jasmine Banner (now working at Wurli) and Dr Simon Quilty from Katherine Hospital.
For Danni-Lee, the Go Rural visit to the Top End offered some life-changing insights.
She says she is now more determined than ever to work in a rural or remote setting - and she thinks the NT is the place to be.
"I wasn't expecting to be impacted in such a personal and professional way on Go Rural," she says, adding that she will now apply for her next critical care placement in Darwin.
And if that pans out, she intends to take a bigger bite and seek a place on the graduate nursing program in the Territory.
(Danni-Lee would like to thank NT PHN, Go Rural team leader Diana Carli-Seebohm, and the ever cheerful Chippy Miller for bringing the Territory to life for her)