Qualitative Perceptions of Opportunity and Job Qualities in Rural Health Care Work

Abstract

With rural health care worker shortages projected to only worsen in the coming decades, many rural communities are attempting to institute local training and education in hopes of retaining a stable local direct care workforce. This study uses qualitative methods to explore how local health care training, education, and employment are perceived by rural residents in one isolated community where most of the local jobs have transitioned from manufacturing and natural resource extraction to health care and education. Based on 60 in-depth, semi-structured interviews and 40 hours of participant observation primarily as a volunteer in a long-term care facility, I find that perceptions about the opportunities in health care that remain in “Independence Creek, Washington” are complex and divergent. The majority of participants speak positively of the local trainings for nursing assistants and the innovative on-site two-year nursing program and argue that these opportunities, seen as either a stepping stone for college-bound young adults or a pathway to decent employment for place-bound individuals, are much needed. Perceptions of pay for nurses are also favorable. Perceptions of pay for nursing assistants are more mixed. Respondents consider it better than other service work, but also not a livable wage. Job security is perceived as a big plus, as respondents describe the ability to “get a job anywhere” as a nurse or nursing assistant. However, job stability (having regular hours and work place stability) are not described as strong qualities of working in rural health care. Despite issues with some negative perceptions of rural health care work, this study demonstrates a continuing need for more local training as we work towards higher quality working conditions and compensation.

DOI:  http://dx.doi.org/10.14574/ojrnhc.v16i1.382

https://doi.org/10.14574/ojrnhc.v16i1.382
PDF

Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:

  1. Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share (for non-commerical purposes) the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
  2. Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
  3. Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).