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Time to Focus on Rural Nurse Staffing

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

Practicing in rural areas is different than practicing in urban ones, and not just because there isn't a Starbucks on every corner. Rural practice often brings with it isolation, a lack of resources, and even more pronounced health issues among patients.

For example, within parts of Appalachia—the rural West Virginia area where nursing students in this study did their rotations—the population has an excess of premature deaths from heart disease, all cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and motor vehicle accidents. Appalachian communities are also rife with poverty, lack health literacy, and generally have poorer access to healthcare.

Not only were nursing students more interested in rural health after completing their rotations; they were also more sensitive to the unique caregiving needs of the population in which they served. For example, students were more confident in many abilities, including recognizing cultural differences; community assessment; community participation; meeting the unique needs of rural patients; identifying barriers to care; and identifying the impact of socioeconomic status on health.

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