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Original Research

Experiences of non-resident nurses in Australia’s remote Northern Territory

Submitted: 17 December 2012
Revised: 14 March 2013
Accepted: 27 March 2013
Published: 19 July 2013

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Author(s) : Heidelbeer D, Carson DB.

Daniel HeidelbeerDean Carson

Citation: Heidelbeer D, Carson DB.  Experiences of non-resident nurses in Australia’s remote Northern Territory. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2013; 13: 2464. Available: (Accessed 17 October 2017)


Introduction:  There is emerging concern in the health literature about the impacts of non-resident work modes on the quality of service delivery particularly in sparsely populated or remote areas, but little is known about what non-resident health workers themselves see as the advantages and disadvantages of their modes of work, and whether non-resident workers face the same or different social/personal and professional barriers to rural and remote practice as their resident colleagues. Although literature from the resources sector provides insights into the expected social/personal advantages and disadvantages, very little is said about professional issues.
Methods:  This article reports on semi-structured interviews conducted with seven non-resident nurses working in remote locations in Australia’s Northern Territory in 2011. All nurses lived outside the Northern Territory when not at work. The interviews focussed on how the separation of place of residence and place of work affected nurses’ private and professional lives.
Results:  Social/personal issues faced by these nurses are similar to what has been reported in the broader literature on non-resident work. Nurses who successfully engage in non-resident work develop strategies to manage their lives across multiple locations. However, questions are raised about the professional impacts of non-resident work, in terms of the continuing competency of the workers themselves, the performance of work teams that consist of resident and non-resident workers, and the maintenance of context-specific skills.
Conclusions:  Non-resident work is likely to become more common in remote areas such as Australia’s Northern Territory because of the advantages workers experience in their personal lives. There is an urgent need to address professional issues associated with non-resident work modes.

Key words: Australia, non-resident workforce, Northern Territory, nurse recruitment and retention, nursing workforce, remote health.

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