Taste for Travel has a copy of
The Country Practice to give away.
WHO: Meredith Appleyard lives in the Clare Valley wine-growing region of South Australia, two hours north of Adelaide. As a registered nurse and midwife, she has worked in many country health practice settings, including the Royal Flying Doctor Service. She’s done agency nursing in London and volunteer work in Vietnam. She completed an Advanced Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing with the Adelaide College of the Arts. The Country Practice, published by Penguin, $32.99 rrp, is her first novel. It’s a medical rural romance set in Australia’s hot, dusty, challenging outback.
THE PLOT: Newly single, Dr Meghan Kimble has returned home to follow her dream of working as a GP. Her first stop is a month-long locum in the colourful remote community of Magpie Creek. It’s been a while since the outback town has had a permanent doctor and Meghan is generating attention, especially from forthright (read: enigmatic but hot) farmer Sean Ashby. When love threatens to derail her career plans, Meghan is forced to reassess life, her universe and everything.
WHAT: Meredith draws on extensive travel and rural work experience to create her debut novel. Her nursing work in Vietnam sparked an idea for a second book, which is percolating away at the back of her mind. I asked Meredith about The Country Practice, and tips for nursing’s adaptable skills while travelling.
Q&A with Meredith
Did regional nursing and FIFO inspire your novel?
Yes. I’m country born and bred and have spent most of my working life in rural and remote communities. I liked the whole “jack of all trades” type of nurse you needed to be in these communities. Over the years I’ve been in some interesting situations and met a lot of amazing characters!
How long did you work in these two areas?
My first job as a registered nurse was in Coober Pedy and then I travelled to the Northern Territory to work – Katherine and Darwin hospitals. I’ve worked in rural QLD and in a number of locations in rural SA. Take out the year I did my midwifery training, the year I did a post-grad ICU course and perhaps several other years working in metro hospitals, the remaining 25 plus years have been spent working in the country. I worked as a FIFO in the Cooper Basin for two and a bit years.
Are there opportunities for nurses on working holidays in Australia?
Yes, I think there are. My last clinical job, before I hung up the tools and plonked myself down in front of a computer to write full-time, was in a small rural hospital in SA’s Mid North and we regularly used nursing agency staff and often these would be people on a working holiday, or the likes.
Is nursing a good profession if you’re travelling extensively and want to work?
Yes, nursing is a good profession to have if you want to travel and I never had any difficulty getting a job whether it was short-term or longer-term employment I was looking for. These days there are so many opportunities for nurses.
Can you tell me about volunteering in a Vietnamese hospital?
I went to Vietnam with a group of other nurses (about 25 of us) and we were placed in hospitals across Ho Chi Minh City. It was organised by a group in Victoria and I read about it in the Australian Nursing Federation magazine. Being one of the only rural nurses I was partnered up with 3 other registered nurses whose primary goal was educating the Vietnamese nursing staff in the care of scopes (endoscopes, colonoscopies etc).
I spent my time on the wards with the Vietnamese nurses – tagging along on dressing and medication rounds and showing them hand hygiene techniques. It was a 90-bed ward with very few hand washing facilities. The role of the nurses was to give medications and treatments – dressings etc, and one of the patient’s family members saw to all the patient’s personal care needs, food etc. The family member camped next to or under the patient’s bed!
It was a very busy hospital in Precinct 5 – I understand there is a high rate of stomach and oesophageal cancers in Vietnam because many people smoke. The equipment, furniture and fixtures in the wards were old and very poor when compared with what we’re used to in Australia. Once the patient was discharged there’s no such thing as domiciliary care or district nurses!
While we were there we also participated in a nurses’ conference with the Vietnamese Nursing Association. Of course there was a language barrier but we managed!
Would you recommend the experience?
It was a life-changing experience in a way – one of those experiences that was only weeks long but had a huge impact on my view of the world. Vietnam is a beautiful country, the people warm and welcoming. Ho Chi Minh City is a frenetic place with many contradictions, for example, McDonald’s on one corner and street vendors selling traditional food on the other while overhead the flashing neon signs advertise mobile phones.
While I was there I managed to fit in some travel – down to the Mekong Delta and then a train trip from Da Nang to Hanoi with several days in that city. It was an amazing experience and I hope to visit again some day – hopefully to research a book I have bubbling away in the back of my mind!
Thanks, Meredith! If you want the giveaway copy of The Country Practice simply leave a comment on this post, or flick me a Tweet or a comment on Taste for Travel’s Facebook page. You know the drill. In two weeks’ time I’ll throw all the names into the battered ole sunhat and pick one at random. Giveaway open to residents of Australia.
Update March 31: Congratulations to Effie B of Melbourne who won the giveaway copy!