Background: Nursing in rural settings requires the skill set of a multi-specialist who is adaptable to change and different ways of working. Maintaining skills needed for emergency management of complex health issues is difficult, and retention is affected by the paucity of further education opportunities and mentors.
Purpose: In collaboration with five small community hospitals in southern Ontario that experience challenges in recruiting and retaining sufficient nursing staff, this project used critical ethnography to ascertain appropriate retention strategies.
Methods: Data collection included environmental scans, interviews with 45 rural nurses, and completion of 156 surveys from nurses on rural nursing careers. During the project, staff-identified, educational strategies were implemented in 3 of the 5 community hospitals.
Findings: Seven themes emerged from the data. Overall, rural nurses identified that they were content to stay, as long as there was sufficient work.
Conclusion: Retention interventions that are locally constructed with attention to community factors have the greatest likelihood of succeeding.
Keywords: rural nursing, nurse retention, critical ethnography, retention strategies
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