T.I. TIME: Developing Patience & Celebrating Small Successes

By Marissa Arnot

Marissa is a Deitician working in Remote Queensland.

TI time, Island Time or whatever you call it, basically sums up the laid back, easy going and relaxed way things happen in the Torres Strait and I suspect many other island and rural/remote communities. There is no rushing anything in the Torres and at first when moving from the city, where everything is running by a clock and you are expected to squeeze in as much as you can to everyday, TI time can be a little frustrating.

The concept of appointment times and meeting times were replaced with drop in clinic days and mid morning or mid afternoon yarns. Hours were spend perfecting the art of waiting for pick ups, ferries, planes and clients and the old saying ‘patience is virtue’ developed new meaning during my first few months in the Torres.

Obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and renal disease are all huge problems in the Torres and obviously lifestyle changes play an important part in preventing and managing these diseases. The thing about lifestyle change is that it isn’t generally something that happens overnight, nor is it something that shows its benefit immediately. Being a dietitian I signed up for a job trying to help people improve their lifestyles so inevitably I’m up for my share of frustrations, disappointments and delayed job satisfaction.

These frustrations, disappointments and lack of immediate job satisfaction came thick and fast in my early days in the Torres. Language barriers, cultural differences, food supply and economic issues make education and influencing lifestyle change even harder and seeing little or no change in your client’s results or lifestyle can make you question your abilities as a clinician. Self evaluation is important and I worked hard at developing my skill in communication and education and at finding some common ground between good nutrition, cultural differences and social influences.

Support from peers, friends and family, finding the right balance between work and home life and most of all experience and time have helped me handle these frustrations better and develop more of an understanding of why life is the way it is in Indigenous and Rural/Remote communities. I have learnt a lot from my indigenous colleagues and clients over the years and this has increased my understanding and appreciation of the impact culture, environment and social circumstances can have on health and lifestyle and fuelled my desire further to offer the best education and care I can to the Torres community.

I celebrate small successes now, things like no weight gain in a person who had previously been putting on kilo after kilo, a family’s change in cooking habits to include more vegetables and simply seeing more people walking in the afternoons around the community. These small successes keep me positive; they keep me sane. Because if I focussed on the breath of the problem and the failures I am sure I would have burnt out by now. I continue to learn and keep trying to share all of the knowledge that I can in the hope that my small successes together with others’ small successes will bring able significant improvements not too far down the track.