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GP training during a cyclone – Dr Nissen’s story

22nd August 2017

James Cook University (JCU) Registrar Dr Skye Nissen played a vital role in providing health care following Cyclone Debbie in March 2017.

Dr Nissen is a GMT GP Registrar based at the Proserpine Hospital.

“I’m from Cairns so I’m used to cyclones, but cyclone Debbie was just something else. It went for so long, it was so destructive,” she says.

On the day following the cyclone, Dr Nissen was unable to access the Proserpine Hospital due to floodwaters, so worked in a makeshift emergency department set up at a local GP Practice.

“We had compound fractures, appendicitis – all these people couldn’t get to the hospital.”

When the floodwaters receded, Dr Nissen drove to the hospital to relieve the doctors who had been working non-stop for several days.

“The scene I walked into at the hospital after the cyclone was like a war zone. The hospital was half in the dark, there were people on the floor. I walked past one man in a chair unconscious having an anaphylactic episode, so we got him on the ground and gave him adrenaline. It was just crazy.

“That was the first real mass casualty event that I’ve had. It was one of the highest volume of patients I’ve had to manage, and my training meant that I was ready to deal with it all.”

Dr Nissen’s career goal is to become a hospital-based generalist in a rural hospital, and says it was her rural placements during medical school that inspired her to go rural.

“The best thing I ever did was decide to go rural. I think I am going to have a much better lifestyle. I am well supported. I was able to gain a lot more experience in clinical skills earlier on. Rural based senior doctors are so supportive and such good mentors.”

Dr Nissen says she also enjoys being part of a community.

“It’s great having that engagement with the community, and seeing your patients out and about.”



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