Urban vs. Rural Assignments: What To Expect From Your Destination
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent delta variant are indiscriminate in their effects on populations. As a result, both urban and rural communities face rising demand for healthcare services. Travel nurses are finding themselves at facilities drastically different from one another.
The shift from an urban hospital to a rural healthcare facility, or vice-versa, can be jarring. It’s important to prepare for anything, adapt quickly, and deliver the highest standard of patient care — whatever the setting.
Think carefully about your assignment location
One of the benefits of travel nursing is the ongoing opportunity to explore new places and work in different hospitals around the country. But it can take some time to get used to the differences between facilities — especially if you’re shifting between urban and rural locations. The equipment, procedures, and populations you work with can vary dramatically from one location to another. This might be difficult for nurses used to certain standards or amenities — or those who’ve worked in one area for a long time.
It’s important to understand the key differences between urban and rural healthcare settings before taking your next assignment, so you know what to expect and can plan accordingly.
Hallmarks of urban healthcare
If you’re planning to take an assignment in a big city like San Francisco, New York, or Miami, there are a few healthcare experiences you’re likely to encounter.
- Higher patient volume. Urban areas have significantly higher populations. Urban hospitals treat a larger volume of patients with a higher degree of diversity. Urban facilities are typically busier and require a greater number of nursing staff.
- Access to advanced equipment. Because of high patient volume, tourism, and prominence in the U.S. healthcare industry, urban hospitals tend to be well funded. This gives urban healthcare workers access to state-of-the-art equipment and more advanced technology.
- More comprehensive capabilities. The range of healthcare needs is broader in urban areas. Facilities in large cities have more comprehensive capabilities for diagnostics and patient care available for treating a wide spectrum of conditions and concerns. This gives nurses the opportunity to gain experience in a range of healthcare practices, but urban nurses can also specialize in a particular field with a higher likelihood of placement.
Hallmarks of rural healthcare
Rural areas have their own unique elements and challenges when it comes to healthcare. Consider the following if you’re headed to a less-populated area:
- Greater need for nurses. One of the biggest healthcare concerns in rural areas is limited access — primarily due to a shortage of healthcare workers in these regions. Rural locations need more nurses to offset shortages of primary care physicians and other specialized care providers.
- Less equipped facilities. Hospitals in rural areas are typically less funded and equipped than their urban counterparts. Nurses might need to use older equipment and less advanced technology.
- Generalized care focus. Because access to healthcare is limited in rural areas, nurses in rural hospitals have to be generalists, providing a broad range of healthcare services. A single shift might float you between different departments or focus areas rather than keeping you on one unit, such as the emergency room or oncology.
- Lower patient volume. Rural hospitals usually have a lower patient volume because there are fewer people living in the areas they serve. This can cause inconsistent patient volume — if not generally low census.
Both urban and rural facilities offer ample opportunities for growth in the healthcare field. Where you choose to work will ultimately depend on your interests and experience.