Dr Jean Ross is helping define the professional identity of rural nurses.
People living in rural areas do not have the same access to health services as those in urban areas, for a range of reasons. Rural nurses play an important role in these communities, with a broad scope of practice, so the difficulties in recruiting and retaining rural nurses compound the problem of inequitable health services.
When Dr Jean Ross started exploring the scope of practice of rural nurses, she was challenged by urban-based nurses who felt that there was no difference in what they do. So Jean carried out many interviews with rural nurses to examine what differences there were, if any, and to enable rural nurses to clearly articulate those differences. She found that the different contexts in which rural nurses practice and communities they serve did affect the nurses' practice. This means that rural nurses have different needs, for example for supervision, professional development, and career progression.
Identifying these differences in nursing practice in rural areas provides policy-makers with an evidence basis to consider ways those different needs might be met. Jean's objective is to improve the sustainability of rural nursing practice, improving recruitment and retention so that people in rural communities can experience greater continuity of care from their nurses.