Aim and Objective: To delineate contemporary practice of registered nurses working in rural and remote areas of Australia.
Background: Despite the implementation of strategies to address challenges reported by rural and remote nurses, concern remains over safety and quality of care, the well-being of nurses and retention of the nursing workforce. Twenty years on, geographically dispersed nurses still experience scarce human and material resources.
Design: A multiple case study design was implemented.
Methods: Nurses were recruited from 240 sites. The study comprised three phases of data collection. First, a content analysis of 42 documents relating to the context of nursing, specifically rural and remote nursing; second, a content analysis of an online questionnaire (n = 75); and third, a thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews (n = 20). COREQ reporting guidelines were used.
Results: Each phase of data collection informed subsequent data collection and analysis within the study. Following triangulation of data from each phase of the study, the major themes reported are “a medley of preparation for rural and remote work”; “being held accountable”; “alone, with or without someone”; and “spiralling well-being.”.
Conclusions: Regardless of strategies, challenges of nursing in rural and remote areas persist. Issues of isolation, stress, burnout and a lack of organisational commitment to employees affect the retention of rural and remote nurses. While useful, professional development courses and graduate certificates are yet to make an impact on reducing these issues. Relevance to clinical practice: Registered nurses argue for more experience rather than more education to facilitate transition into this nursing area. The finding that experience is perceived as more valuable than education suggests the need for innovative ways to gain experience to practice in rural and remote nursing. Lack of organisational commitment requires attention to promote the well-being of nurses and patient safety.