Objective: To explore the impact of legislative, strategic, and organizational changes on nursing in rural hospitals since 1995.
Background: Rural hospitals have faced decreasing financial margins. This economic pressure is due to multiple reasons, and is a major issue for nurse executives. Nurse executives are responsible for assuring quality of nursing care. Nursing care affects patient outcomes. The impact of legislative, economic, and strategy decisions on nursing in rural hospitals is unknown.
Methods: A focus group was conducted with 11 nurse executives from rural hospitals who attended the American Organization of Nurse Executives Annual Meeting held on April 20, 2004.
Results: Themes from the content analysis were grouped into 3 major categories: external environmental (physical isolation, patient population, services needed, legislation), internal organizational (patient acuity, volume, services, technology, financial margin and strategy, staffing, leadership, culture, and resources), and nursing infrastructure (staffing, salary, registered nurse–physician conflict, continuity of care, competency, culture, politics and leadership).
Conclusions: Nurse executives in rural hospitals face distinctive issues and challenges. Further study of the impact of policy and strategy decisions on rural nursing is needed.