The experience of general nurses in rural Australian emergency departments Academic Article uri icon


  • Australia is a geographically unique country with large areas classed as rural. Nurses providing emergency care in rural hospitals face a number of challenges, with rural communities expecting multi-skilled nurses, prepared for a wide range of unannounced situations. Using a mixed method approach, involving questionnaires and focus groups, the study was undertaken in two rural health services in Victoria, Australia. The aim was to explore the experiences of general nurses working in rural hospital settings, with regards to their emergency department responsibilities. The findings indicate that nurses lacked confidence, which they attributed to the sporadic nature of working in the area and the diversity of people who presented. A resultant 'skills rusting' was described and nurses identified the need to be a diverse 'specialist'. Some lack of confidence, particularly in the mental health area, was related to feelings of isolation and lack of context specific education and training. While some excellent emergency specific education and training is available for rural nurses, access is limited by a multitude of constraints. This study found there is an urgent need for local emergency education and training; with nurses showing a strong preference for ongoing professional development incorporating scenario based and context specific education.

publication date

  • January 2012