The most popular places across America are largely cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Nashville, and Chicago, to name a few. Nurses, doctors, teachers, lawyers, and other professionals are naturally drawn to the excitement that cities have to offer, but this often leaves rural areas dangerously unserved. Such is the case in many rural areas around the country that are currently facing dire nursing shortages.
Nursing Obstacles in Rural Communities
About one in five Americans lives in a rural area, but for those millions of people, access to healthcare is often miles away, with fully equipped hospitals possibly an hour’s drive or more. This causes nurses in medical offices to be trained as generalists who can handle a broad range of areas to provide primary care to all patients. Furthermore, since nurses in rural areas often live in those areas and face their own financial challenges, critical continuing education is not always an option and leaves a gap in progress that prevents advancement.
The Rural Nursing Initiative
Two Dakota Wesleyan University faculty members are working to tackle the rural nursing shortage head on with their Rural Nursing Initiative. The effort, funded by a $750,000 grant, aims to increase the number of registered nurses and certified nursing assistants in rural areas by integrating training programs, simulation technology, and curriculum tailored to rural community problems.
As one of the initiative’s leaders, Melissa McMillen explained, “Hopefully through this process, it entices some of [the student nurses] to stay in rural communities because the future is grim in keeping hospitals open and staffed with nurses.”
McMillen’s partner, Stacey Patzlaff, elaborated on how the experience is overwhelming for some nurses. “They never know what they’re going to get. They could be the OB nurse, the trauma nurse, the cardiac nurse. You never know what’s going to walk through the door. They have to know all of that. They can’t just be a specialized nurse.”
On the plus side, working as a rural nurse is a far more intimate experience with far more one-on-one time to learn, unlike larger urban and suburban settings that are crammed with talent. As many other nursing professionals follow the lead of McMillen and Patzlaff, hopefully the rural community will begin to thrive with strong nursing professionals who can keep rural populations safe and healthy.