There are very few experiences as unique as working in a rural facility. As a rural nurse, you see a lot in rural settings, some of which is difficult to understand at first glance. However, rural nurses play a significant role in delivering health care and are the medical lifeline for isolated communities.
People living in rural communities have issues relating to accessing health care, social care, medicines, shopping and transport. Rural areas are geographically remote and access to care is reduced. The response times of health care staff are longer and may be limited due to staff shortages and access to technology – all which implicates the care that is provided.
As a rural nurse, you need to be extremely resourceful, but above all, you need to be resilient. Being a nurse in a rural setting is a difficult role to fill, with a lot more responsibility. Rural nurses typically work in critical care, trauma, labour and delivery, as well as in typical nursing duties like attending to patients who are sick or injured. If you are considering being a rural nurse, you may think that you are ready, but until you practice in a very remote, rural situation, where getting support could take hours, the responsibility you have will soon consume you.
One of the more demanding aspects of the role is that you are often isolated as the only clinician when working and can deal with anything from a head injury to burn wounds, or a viral infection. If a situation arises, you must deal with it because there is nobody else.
Attracting qualified nursing staff has become a priority for many rural healthcare facilities. This is done through financial incentives like offering competitive pay, guaranteed pay raises, paid time off, and student loan reimbursements. Benefits such as health and dental coverage as well as retirement are also selling points for rural hospitals. Having worthwhile benefits help with attracting and retaining rural nurses.
Rural nurses need to feel empowered and supported in their roles because they never know what will come through the doors, or what they will have to deal with. There is always something new to learn, and they are always kept on their toes. Being a rural nurse is one of the most challenging, yet most rewarding jobs you can have.
The effects of loneliness and poverty have significant impacts on health, and as nurses you cannot control the environment in which patients sought care, but you are able to contribute to the healing environment by creating a space for them to feel comfort. This requires much more patience and understanding that was not taught in nursing school.