Date of Award

January 2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Nursing

First Advisor

Tracy J. Evanson

Abstract

A lack of healthcare providers, including RNs, creates barriers for the U.S. rural population to access adequate healthcare services. One contributing factor to the scarcity in rural areas is the increasing numbers of RNs commuting away from rural communities for employment—14% in 1980 to 37% in 2004 (Skillman, Palazzo, Doescher, & Butterfield, 2012).

This descriptive phenomenology study investigated the experiences of RNs living in rural communities who commuted away to non-rural settings for employment. Purposeful sampling with snowballing was used to recruit 16 RNs for the study, allowing for understanding a rich variation in the professional experiences of RNs, as well as experiences surrounding where they lived, through analysis of data obtained using semi-structured interviews. The essence, or core meaning, of nurses commuting away from their rural, home communities was found to be “Commuting to Achieve Personal and Professional Goals While Being a Nurse in a Rural Community.” The overall findings included multifaceted reasons for nurses to commute to non-rural healthcare settings, including more noteworthy findings, such as nurses’ desires to seek specialized areas of nursing practice, and opportunities for advancement in nursing. Additionally, it was notable that all nurses felt valued as a nurse in their rural, home community.

The findings from this study can be used to benefit nursing practice, policy development, employers of nurses in rural settings, and nursing education, impacting recruitment and retention

efforts that focus on nurses in rural settings. In the end, it was apparent that recruitment and retention efforts in rural areas need to be unique, without a “one size fits all” application.

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