There is a nation-wide shortage of rural nurses and other medical staff, including physicians.
The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that the US will lack from 40.800 and 104.900 physicians by 2030.
The reasons behind it are an aging population and growing demand for all healthcare services.
Also, the costs of healthcare for the aging population are increasing.
It is a common misconception that rural communities need fewer physicians because they have lower demand for healthcare.
But, physicians prefer urban areas for employment, due to increased salary and larger possibilities for career choices.
The benefits packages are also better in larger cities than in rural areas.
Because of the shortage of physicians, nurse practitioners often step in and act as primary care providers in rural healthcare facilities.
The roles of nurse practitioners and physicians can be similar, but their scope of practice and authorization for specific procedures depends on the state.
Some nurse practitioners have more restrictions than others.
Their primary responsibilities include taking a patient history and maintaining a panel of patients.
Their daily duties are ordering diagnostic tests, prescribing and ordering medications, performing a wide range of procedures such as suturing, wound care, injections, etc.
Nurse Practitioners also admit and discharge patients and educate both patients and families on the disease, injuries, or treatment.
They also follow up with patients with chronic conditions and disease management.
In general, the role of NP in rural settings is the same as the role of NP in urban areas.
They face a similar set of challenges, as well as those related to the lifestyle and environment specifications.
For example, people in rural communities often have a higher rate of chronic conditions.
Therefore, rural NPs face challenges related to diabetes control and maintaining hypertension as patients aren’t used to seek follow-up care.
Also, because of the Affordable Care Act, more get access to care and there are more patients a nurse must assess in the same amount of time.
Rural nurses do face plenty of challenges, but their job has positive sides as well.
Those include a higher level of autonomy in their practice, growing closing relationships with the community members, etc.