Rural Professional Isolation: An Integrative Review


  • Martha A. Williams Arnot Ogsen Medical Center and Binghamton University



Background: Chronic nursing shortages have plagued rural communities for many years. It is therefore important to highlight the specific challenges confronting rural areas in regards to recruiting and retaining nurses. One challenging factor associated with recruitment and retention of rural nurses is professional isolation.

Purpose: This paper reports the findings of an integrative review conducted to analyze and critique recent empirical and theoretical literature on the concept of rural professional isolation. The author explores the ways in which professional isolation has been considered in the multidisciplinary health and nursing literature.

Methods: A cross-search of three nursing and social science databases located 26 papers, the majority published between 2000 and 2010. In addition, several classic articles dating back to 1989 were included. The articles focused on various aspects of professional isolation in nursing, medical, and allied health literature. Whittemore and Knafl’s integrative review method guided the analysis. A narrative description of findings and synthesis of data was performed.

Results: Professional isolation appeared in the literature in numerous contexts. As it relates to rural nursing, the concept has often been cited, but remains poorly described.

Conclusion: Professional isolation may be geographic (a distance from), social (a lack of contact with), or ideological (out casted from). However, most of the literature reviewed relates to the geographic or the social aspects of the concept. Electronic communication and information technology hold great potential for reducing professional isolation of nurses who practice in rural areas.

Keywords: Integrative Review, Professional Isolation, Rural Nursing

Author Biography

  • Martha A. Williams, Arnot Ogsen Medical Center and Binghamton University
    MS, RN, NEA-BC; PhD Student Binghamton University
    Arnot Ogden Medical CenterAssistant Vice President Nursing
    PhD Student Binghamton University, Decker School of Nursing