After running a dairy farm in a small town called Lardner in Victoria, Elle and her family sold their cows and moved to Darwin in 2011 to the top end with her engineer husband and twin sons.
Currently, Elle works 20 minutes out of Darwin, in Palmerston for the NT Health Service as the Women’s Health Team Leader for Aboriginal Health. She has worked in her role since 2014, following a brief stint with the RFDS for 9 months flying to Mornington Island as a child health nurse and midwife.
When she’s not intercepting Nerf wars with her sons Alex and Max, primary health care NP Elle is focused on providing midwifery and women’s health services in particular IUD insertions for a wide range of female members of the community.
Please share a little about your experience and background in healthcare and nursing
I was based in Victoria early in my career and graduated from Monash University with a nursing degree in 1995 at Warragul West Gippsland Hospital where I did my graduate year.
I then spent some time working in aged care and did a graduate diploma in 1999 and then did my midwifery qualification in 2000 and masters of midwifery 2002. Because I was working in a rural hospital, I wanted to be able to do it all. Later on, I did my child health qualification in 2010 and worked in South Gippsland as a child health nurse.
We decided to move off the dairy farm end of 2011 - and have been in the Northern Territory ever since - apart for 9 months for RFDs in Cairns. My husband works as an engineer in Katherine, and I am in Palmerston, so our lives are fairly busy with our two sons, and I really enjoy my role as I feel being a midwife and an NP fit really well together.
In my role at NT Aboriginal Health Service, we treat anyone and everyone who ever walks in the door - we take care of primary health care needs whether it be bloods, pathology or liaising with the GPs - we’re here for the local community to sort everything out health wise. We have our midwifery specialist and a diabetes educator as well as mental health professionals who are all available to assist - in my area focus on women and children.
Tell us about a typical day in the life of me as an NP?
Usually each workday we start with a plan. While I might start with a plan, it can go either way and the day really depends on who walks through the clinic doors.
My role covers around 4000 clients with about 2500 regular clients of a cross-section of backgrounds. We have booked clinic and try to get appointments and plans for LARC (long active contraception) IUD or implanon, however, anything can happen in our clinic and each day is unique in women’s health.
The other day, a lady walked in and they are overdue for rheumatic heart disease review so we just got into gear and provided the full holistic primary health care including injections for the heart, contraception if needed and immunising the young child she had with her and booking primary health care review with a GP at a future date.
We often have emergency presentations, and we might need to work on them up in the community, stabilise and try to manage them in the community or they might need a hospital transfer. We focus on making the patients feel safe and focus on keeping them safe and secure.
If patients need heart surgery, they may need to travel to Adelaide, and we need to review this and make sure they get the care they need.
My role is particularly satisfying as I am able to give women choices for their contraception and help to ensure women’s health is a focus for them and that they have health plans in place for contraception, family planning and beyond.
Why did you decide to become a nurse practitioner?
When I was at Mornington Island, I had exposure to an NP and what they did. At the time I was working with a wonderful NP named Michelle Harvey (kidney NP), and her passion and skill really stood out to me. Michelle is a massive advocate for nurse practitioners, and that encouraged me to apply myself and explore the qualification for myself.
I was working with Penny Steel the NT Family Planning after I left the role with the RFDS in Cairns and really enjoyed that and then trained for IUD insertions - the last time I checked I was the first nurse in the Territory to complete that training - now we have a few inserters on board and it is great to be able to continue the service. I was worried that should Penny move on, the IUD option would be lost for my community and I wanted to ensure my community had the option to request this LARC should they wish to have it.
Being a midwife and an NP fits well together - we can focus on mother and baby, contraception, midwife support, handovers to primary health care team. We provide an extended scope of practice and offer a full set of skills for our patients. Now that I am a qualified NP it means that where ever I work I can offer a higher scope of service and care to my patients, and this means that rather than just prescribing medication, I can offer holistic primary health care with a wide array of skills.
I had great role models throughout the lead up to my NP study, and I am proud to have had the opportunity to offer a better service to my community and offer a wide skill set. Becoming an NP was highly motivating for me I found the NP role to offer a huge scope that would suit the community I work in.
What are you hoping to achieve in your current role as an NP?
I would like to work as an NP in the current role in the areas that interest me - women’s health, planned pregnancy and long-acting contraception.
I work closely with women who are not wanting to be pregnant, and the termination pathway is important to me - by providing women’s health care I can get the ball rolling and support them in this journey. Until recently we had to move women out of the state to help with terminations, which is difficult for patients and their families.
Child health, women’s health, diabetes and primary health care are my focus and having a good relationship with GPs - in the long term I want to continue to work on these professional relationships and grow the role of NPs in our community.
If you weren’t an NP, what would you be doing?
I have never wanted to do anything else. I have loved my career, and I am always encouraging other people.
When you’re a nurse, there are so many options and areas to work in and you can re-invent yourself a 1000 times.
I can’t imagine not being a nurse.
My English teacher in year 10 told me I was not university material and that has been a motivator for me. I am not an academic but quietly focused and having that connection with the community is amazing. I am so proud to do what I do and offer women, children and the greater community a service that works for them.