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5 Things to Know About Being a Rural Nurse

As the healthcare industry evolves, there continues to be challenges in making sure patients have access to healthcare, and to the providers that support them. In rural areas, for example, residents continue to have limited access to basic healthcare, due in large part to a shortage of healthcare providers such as nurses. 

In the US, this shortage is more evident in the rural and isolated parts of the country. According to Rural Health Information Hub, 61.47% of Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) are regarded as rural

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Moreover, demand for registered nurses will grow by as much as 12% from 2018 to 2028 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most of this demand will be in rural locations.

Rural nurses often function as a medical lifeline for more remote communities. They often work in smaller healthcare facilities, hospitals, and clinics. This means rural nurses may need to learn additional nursing skills to cover specializations that do not function as separate care areas like in many metropolitan hospitals. If you are considering becoming a rural nurse, read on to find out what it’s like. 

What You Should Know About Being a Rural Nurse

Being a nurse in a rural area is different from working in a city hospital. Here are some of the differences:

  1. Living and working in a small community

Rural nurses may find communities to be tightly connected. This close relationship within the community may be challenging for nurses who are used to detaching their professional role from their personal life. Being a rural nurse can mean being available whenever someone asks for medical advice (e.g., being approached for advice outside the work setting). Living and working in a small community can also mean limited access to specialized equipment or resources, longer wait times for lab results, etc. 

On the other hand, in a closely-knit community, nurses may have a better view of their patients’ lifestyles and conditions. This can help nurses to be more empathic of their patients, more patient-centered, and more effective in their approach. 

  1. Limited human resources

As mentioned, rural areas often have limited resources. This limitation includes human resources. Nurses can expect their medical center to only have a few staff working long hours. Some staff will have to expand their roles. In some cases, rural nurses also have to provide surgical and even administrative assistance. This shortage can lead to frustration and nursing burnout.

This can also be a good training ground for rural nurses because it allows them to broaden their experience and improve their skill sets. Not only do they need to act as triage nurses, but they also become bedside or ambulatory care nurses when necessary. 

  1. Greater responsibility and appreciation

Another notable aspect of being a rural nurse is the greater sense of responsibility. Since most nurses might know their patients on a personal level, it’s pretty common for them to experience emotional attachment. While this can be a good thing, they must maintain appropriate boundaries and confidentiality when providing healthcare. 

In serving multiple roles and the best interest of their patients, nurses are rewarded for the care they provide; often receiving appreciation from both their peers and patients. 

  1. Better autonomy

Also important to note  about being a rural nurse is autonomy. Rural nurses can experience greater independence and freedom within their roles. They can learn to adapt and operate in ways that best benefit their patients. 

Many rural nurses are considered community leaders who can effect change. For many rural patients, nurses become their lifeline regarding their health needs. 

  1. Diversity and variety

No two days are ever the same for rural nurses. There is always something new to learn. Many enjoy the diversity and variety that comes with caring for patients, as well as the opportunity to experience different challenges. It can be stimulating work that can help them hone their skills. 

As you think about how to get an RN degree, it’s also worth considering the location of your practice. Factor in your goals and see if working as a rural nurse will move you closer to achieving them. 

If you want to know more about your nursing options, explore our programs page. 

Share this article with others so they can also learn more about being a rural nurse.