Our small hospital is having a hard time recruiting and retaining nurses, an issue which I really do not understand. My only guess is that many nurses assume that the larger the centre you work in, the happier you’ll be. But that’s not necessarily the case! There are so many great things about working as a Registered Nurse in a rural setting. Let me enlighten you.
#1 You Are On a First-Name Basis With, Well, Everyone You Work With
Imagine this: You walk on the floor you work on, and within minutes you are greeted by the cleaning staff assigned to your floor, the kitchen staff bringing up the patient trays, the physiotherapist, doctors, other nurses and laboratory technicians. They all know you by your first name.
When I delivered our children at the hospital where I worked, I had co-workers from all over the hospital take the time to come in and congratulate us. I received cards, a diaper cake, gifts, food, and well wishes from housekeepers to doctors I work with. Going to work in a rural hospital is not just another job… You are becoming a part of a community.
#2 You Are (At least Partially) Skilled in Many Areas of the Hospital
One of the benefits of working in a small town hospital is that we spend time on more than one floor, without having to transfer. Oftentimes I am called to assist in the Emergency department or ICU, and even Psychiatry all in one shift. On our floor alone we have palliative, med/surg, labour & delivery, and postpartum patients. In order for our patient’s to receive the best care possible, our entire hospital has to work together. This means that you will be cross-trained and after a few years you will feel comfortable with multiple different areas of nursing! Now that is something to be proud of.
#3 You Develop Strong Relationships With the Patients in Your Community
When working in a rural hospital you are caring for your neighbours, friends, and family members. There is an increased sense of accomplishment when you successfully resuscitate a patient that you could potentially pass on the street next week, or assist in a delivery of an infant that you will see grow up at follow-up appointments or emergency room visits. Rural centres have a continuity of care that city hospitals couldn’t even dream of.
#4 You Do So Much More of Everything
Unlike larger centres with IV teams, porters, PSWs to perform personal care, security teams, and a NICU (neonatal intensive care centre) team, the nurses that work in rural hospitals do it all. Literally.
The other evening, I removed an interosseous device from a patient’s tibia and then immediately ran back to the labour & delivery ward to successfully resuscitate a newborn.
As a Registered Nurse in a rural hospital, you may find yourself in a charge position on the floor. This title includes assessing bed assignments, calling physicians for updates and orders, ensuring orders are implemented by your team of nurses and giving a detailed report for the incoming shift. It’s a lot of responsibility, especially as a fairly green nurse. At first it may seem intimidating, but the personal growth that you will achieve in such a short amount of time working in a rural hospital will be astounding.
And besides, instead of patient’s care being segmented, you are able to do it all! There is nothing better than that!
#5 You Are a Valued Member of the Interdisciplinary Team
In our hospital, our interdisciplinary team includes dietitians, physiotherapists, physicians, discharge planners, speech language pathologists and of course, nurses. The nurses are the glue that hold patient care together – they do, after all spend the largest amount of time at the bedside. We are on a first-name basis with all of our family doctors and surgeons, and have no need to hesitate before requesting an increase to analgesia if our patient is having pain or to inform them of a recent diagnostic test result. A close relationship with allied health professionals means that nurses can easily advocate for their patients. In rural hospitals, doctor’s know that nurses are present with their patient the other 99% of the time that they are not in hospital, and value the nurse’s opinion and feedback on their patient’s health status.
#6 You Will See Just About Everything Walk Through the Door
Just because rural hospitals are supposed to be low risk, doesn’t mean things always turn out as planned. We as health care professionals have a duty to care for anyone who comes through our doors – at least until we can get them transferred! Our hospital may be small, but it sure is mighty. Our team moves fluidly whether we are assessing a stroke in ER or rushing for an emergency cesarean in the case of uterine rupture. We get victims of motor vehicle accidents, schizophrenia, and preterm labour. As a nurse in a rural hospital, you can rest assured that you will never be bored.
I hope that this article has opened the reader’s eyes of just how amazing nurses who work in rural hospitals truly are. We have a multifaceted skill set, have unparalleled teamwork skills, are valued members of the interdisciplinary team, and go into work knowing that anything could happen on our shift. We may work in a small town hospital, but we do our job with an incomparable amount of heart and soul.