Rural vs. Urban Nursing in Hospitals

Small town health care can be quite different than big city medicine. For nursing professionals, this means your on-the-job responsibilities and level of care could be impacted based on your geographic location. And, whether you are a new nurse entering the field for the first time or a seasoned nurse seeking a career change, you should be aware of the differences in rural and urban health care so you can make an informed employment decision. From education requirements to on-the-job resources, the differences in health care settings can be stark so it is important to know where you want to take your nursing career.

Rural vs. Urban: Education Requirements

  • Rural: Associate prepared or licensed nurses will meet the education requirements for most rural health care facilities. These career prep programs will provide you with the professional foundation to provide proficient care for patients in a variety of settings from the hospital to the nursing home in your community.
  • Urban: Many large hospitals located in metropolitan areas offer a broad scope of advanced and innovative patient care and treatment services. Some of these facilities specialize in a particular area of medicine for specialized care. Because of this, these facilities have strict education requirements for nurses, including a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Nurses must have training in complex health care practices and concepts as well as experience with new technologies to support the treatment services of specialized medical facilities. Licensed nurses can earn an RN to BSN online to gain the education and training needed to move into urban health care.

Rural vs. Urban: Level of Care

  • Rural: Many rural hospitals are not equipped with the technology and resources necessary to provide advanced or specialized care for sick patients. In such cases, rural health care facilities serve as the first step in treatment helping to recognize symptoms, identify diseases or illnesses and refer patients to specific physicians or facilities in larger cities that serve as the region’s medical hub. Additionally, some nurses in rural areas will serve as a primary care provider within their community making house calls and providing general medical care.
  • Urban: Medical facilities in metropolitan areas often serve as a regional hub for a grouping of smaller cities and towns. These facilities are equipped to provide specialized care and treatment services to patients in great need of advanced health care. Nurses will work in conjunction with physicians to provide superior services for patients. These nurses will need to be knowledgeable in the latest medical trends practices and equipped in new technologies to provide optimal care for patients.

Rural vs. Urban: Rank of Physicians

  • Rural: Most rural medical facilities operate with a primary physician who is trained in a broad range of medical services. In some settings, this physician will depend on nurses to take on more hands-on responsibilities to administer care and treat patients in need throughout the community.
  • Urban: Large hospitals and medical facilities employ numerous physicians and medical professionals to provide comprehensive medical services to patients. From specialized units to trauma centers, preventative medicine to cancer treatment centers, these facilities house a range of medical professionals trained and experienced in more advanced arms of health care. These facilities also provide a training ground for students completing residency requirements for medical school or BSN programs creating a diverse hierarchy of medical professionals.

Rural vs. Urban: Resources

  • Rural: Small town medical facilities often operate on smaller budgets and with limited resources. Nurses must do more with less. Technology might be dated, and you will be required to refer patients to other facilities in larger urban areas in lieu of providing the needed treatment in-house due to the lack of specialty resources and advancement equipment.
  • Urban: Hospitals in large cities often operate with large-scale budgets, especially when associated with a university (known as a teaching hospital). These hospitals and medical facilities are equipped with the latest technology requiring nurses to stay abreast of new techniques and treatment services. Some nursing operations may even be replaced by new machines and technology.

There are benefits to working in both a rural or urban setting, and it is really up to the discretion of the nurse as to which geographic location is best suited for their career goals, interests and passion. A BSN, while not always a requirement in a rural medical setting, is beneficial in either setting helping you to increase your field knowledge, boost your nursing skill set and raise your level of patient care.

Notre Dame College offers an online BSN program for working nurses seeking career advancement or a transition into a new setting.