Aussie Non-Fiction Review: Bush Nurses by Annabelle Brayley

Bush Nurses: Inspiring true stories of nursing bravery and ingenuity in rural and remote Australia
My Rating:                   4 / 5
Format:                        eARC courtesy of Penguin Australia
Publication Date:         20 March 2013
Extent:                         304 Pages
ISBN:                           9781921901393
Imprint:                        Michael Joseph
RRP:                           AU$29.99

Summary and Thoughts

These stories are dedicated to our remote area nurses and medical professionals who, as a breed, are almost always taken for granted with people not realising the magnitude of what they actually do and the lengths to which they will go to ensure a positive outcome. First response and preparation is vital and with so few doctors in remote areas, by virtue of their isolation, most remote nurses are highly-experienced, innovative, resourceful and multi-skilled.

In her own experience, an elective in Papua New Guinea saw Annabelle, herself, resuscitating newborns, cross-matching blood under paraffin lamp light in a “see one, do one, teach one” school of medicine – a life-changing experience! With no room for professional hierarchies and egos, sharing knowledge and skill across professional boundaries was essential to working in Third World conditions.

With input from a volunteer Ambo known as “the guardian of the Great Northern Highway in WA” who is a resident at the Sandfire Roadhouse nestled between the last two monster sand dunes of the Great Sandy Desert, numerous Aboriginal health practitioners and a number of nurses including midwives, this collection of stories spans a century of nursing in rural and remote areas and covers a broad range of experiences.

Offering great insight into remote nursing, these dedicated professionals who are often on call twenty-four-seven for three months at a time, share little known facts with us, for instance the policy relating to pregnant women in remote Australia, the general compromised health of many women in remote areas and the misunderstandings that can take place when English is not your first language - such as the woman who refused to believe she was pregnant, insisting that she had gallstones!

Having birthed her own miracle in a remote part of Australia, Judi Bain is more than qualified to speak about her experience. Then there’s the survival of our own Toowoomba miracle; the driver of the overturned road train who, when questioned, responded that he’d been “checking out the inside of his eyelids”; a violent encounter with an inebriated accident victim; the amazing healing power of “Ant Bed”; and the doleful sound of keening mourners.

From horse-drawn wagons to the Flying Doctor, cyclone and bushfire season to “seducing” a woman into labour, suturing shot-gun wounds to treating animals, rough frontier mining towns and the days before triple-zero and refrigerated morgues as well as the re-structuring of Queensland Health in 2012, all whilst facing huge challenges in harsh conditions from Alice Springs to Papua New Guinea and the offshore oil platforms in the Indian Ocean, these stories put together by Annabelle Brayley will sometimes raise the hairs on the back of your neck, some will have you howling with laughter and others will make you cry but the one thing that is almost certain is that they will make you wonder at the dedication shown by these people who choose to work “out there”.

In fact, Annabelle sums it up quite perfectly - “Bush Nurses is a celebration of all those who “nurse” those of us who live in the inland of Australia”.

I wish to thank both Penguin Australia and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book.

This is also my first Non-Fiction contribution towards the 2013 Aussie Author Challenge:

and another one to add to my long list for the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge:

View all my reviews


  1. Great review Marcia!

    1. Thank you Shelleyrae. It was a bit daunting writing my first non-fiction review after all the fiction ones I've written.


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