Rachel's dream of becoming a nurse has lead her on an incredible journey bringing healthcare to remote communities in Papua New Guinea.
Interview with Rachel Bakker
Can you tell us about your time at Deakin?
I was a bit of a nerd at University. I had dreamed of becoming a nurse since I was very young, so learning about the human body and the different skills and knowledge required to be a nurse was something I really enjoyed. I loved the practical classes the most, where we had the opportunity to be hands on and perform ‘pretend’ clinical scenarios while practicing skills on our classmates.
Describe the journey you have embarked on since finishing your course.
I completed my Graduate Nursing Program at St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Melbourne in 2014. Since then, I have continued working at St Vincent’s as both a Nurse and Midwife. I love the variety in my job, and love being able to work across several areas within the hospital whilst utilising different skills and knowledge.
In 2017, I did a short term missions trip, volunteering as a Nurse and Midwife in Papua New Guinea (PNG) with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and decided it was something I wanted to do more long-term. Papua New Guinea has so many healthcare needs – my wish in particular is to see the maternal and neonatal mortality rate in PNG decrease significantly. I want to bring healthcare, but more than that, I want to bring hope, joy and life to the nation of PNG.
What is your current work?
I serve as a full-time volunteer with Youth With A Mission Australia & Papua New Guinea. I visit Papua New Guinea regularly and serve as a clinic leader, leading teams of other volunteer health professionals into remote villages to set up health clinics, do rural patrols, and run education and training sessions for local health workers. When I'm not in Papua New Guinea, I serve at the base in Townsville, QLD assisting with administration and recruitment of volunteers. I also have a casual nursing and midwifery position at the local hospital here, where I do the occasional weekend shift, to continue developing my own clinical knowledge and skills set.
Have you always wanted to pursue the kind of journey you have embarked on?
I’ve always enjoyed engaging with the local community and have volunteered with several different local outreach programs, but I had never really considered an overseas mission. I first went to PNG because a friend invited me, and I thought it would be a nice thing to do. However, it changed my life and now I can’t get enough of it! It’s certainly very challenging, but so rewarding at the same time.
What advice would you give graduates wanting to pursue a similar path?
Nursing is an amazing career. There are so many different types of nursing careers, so you can either work across several fields or specialise in an area you’re really passionate about. Nursing can be challenging but also extremely rewarding. You can nurse in a variety of settings, and can travel all around the world working.
Have you faced any particular challenges along the way?
Many! Volunteering in PNG is difficult because we are often serving in very remote communities with little resources, and very few skilled health professionals. Many areas we visit don’t even have water or electricity, let alone medical equipment and medications. It makes providing healthcare and education extremely difficult.
What is the most rewarding or fulfilling part of your work? What do you ultimately hope to achieve?
I love being able to go where no one else goes, and help make a difference in a way that no one else does. I love being able to provide education and empower the local health care workers in remote areas of PNG. The health care workers inspire me by how much they do with the little they have, and it is so encouraging to see how excited they are to learn new skills and acquire knowledge that can help them help their people. In particular, I’ve found it very rewarding teaching the management of obstetric emergencies and neonatal and child health, and I hope in years to come we will see huge improvements in these areas.
How would someone describe you?
Kind, loving, passionate, generous, hardworking, friendly and dedicated.
What is something that amazes you?
The incredible strength shown by local health care workers amazes me. They are on-call for their village 24/7. They are often working alone. They have very few resources to work with and they often don't even have water or electricity, let alone medications and consumables but they persevere and do their very best, using their initiative and creativity to help save lives and improve outcomes for their patients. They also show an incredible eagerness to learn new things. I believe the health workers in Papua New Guinea are the heroes of that nation, and they will never cease to amaze me.