Discourses within the roles of Remote Area Nurses in Northern Territory (Australia) government-run health clinics

Lisa Bourke, Terry Dunbar, Lorna Murakami-Gold

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    The Northern Territory (NT) government operates remote clinics which are primarily staffed by Aboriginal Health Practitioners and Remote Area Nurses (RANs). RAN practice has been described as particularly complex due to high health needs, workforce shortages and high levels of turnover in remote Aboriginal communities. While individual incentives are offered, there has been little examination of the role and why the work takes such a toll on RANs. This study aims to identify dominant discourses underpinning RAN practice and how these discourses reflect tensions and reinforce power relations that impact on the RAN role. Discourses were identified from a Foucauldian-inspired discourse analysis of 29 interviews with RANs in six remote NT communities. Five dominant discourses were identified, namely, that permanent RANs are preferred to agency RANs, RANs portray themselves as experienced and certain, RANs use autonomous clinical judgement, Aboriginal staff are important and RAN’s belief in making a difference. However, the experience of RANs suggested that there are many types of employment that learning from was also important, RANs often struggled to work with Aboriginal staff and they were unsure if they were making a difference. Furthermore, these discourses created tensions between RANs who were permanent–agency, older–younger, experienced–newer and certain–reflexive. Deconstructing these rigid discourses could allow the RAN role to be reconstructed in ways that lead to better retention, job satisfaction and health outcomes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1401-1408
    Number of pages8
    JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health
    • discourse
    • Remote Area Nurses
    • remote health
    • remote health clinics
    • remote practice
    • retention


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