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Time to Focus on Rural Nurse Staffing

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, July 10, 2012

When nurses are in abundant supply, nurse leaders and hospitals tend feel a sense of relief. But nurse leaders are urged not take their staffing levels for granted, and perhaps nowhere is this more important than in rural areas, where healthcare provider recruitment is an even greater challenge.

An editorial in the most recent issue of the Online Journal of Rural Nursing and Health Care cites research predicting that "over the next several years this bubble of abundance of RNs will deflate if not burst." Translation: Nurse leaders need to be prepared.

"This time of a more abundant supply of RNs is a time for rural areas to strengthen the ranks of rural nurses," writes journal editor Pamela Stewart Fahs, DSN, RN.

Rural healthcare organizations would certainly feel a future nursing shortage more acutely than their urban counterparts. After all, rural organizations already have trouble recruiting providers away from big cities where every amenity—professional and personal—is available in favor of places that might be 20 miles away from the nearest grocery story.

That's why Fahs implores nurse leaders in her editorial to "use this time to reduce professional isolation, [and] provide training that assists both individual nurses and the organization in growth to provide the best possible health care."

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