It is widely known that recruiting healthcare professionals to the rural setting is an ongoing challenge. Healthcare systems have collaborated with colleges and universities for years to develop programs promoting rural practice for physicians, physician assistants, nurses, and other allied health professionals.
Nearly three decades ago I began my nursing career at the Mid-Plains Community College Associate Degree Registered Nurse program located in North Platte. This was a new program in the early 1990s, developed in part due to the rural demand for RNs.
Throughout my time spent living in western Nebraska I have gained a true appreciation for the concept of residing in a community and region that is truly connected. The people you work with and the clients you serve may be the same people you see at the high school volleyball game or the grocery store. This could be viewed as “too close for comfort” for some. Smaller towns rely upon core infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, agricultural entities, and main street businesses to maintain their presence, and the people who live in these rural areas fiercely support them. I have found that the rural connectedness has helped me see how the issues in healthcare are closely tied to the social and economic issues in my community. This awareness led me to the community organizations for which I have chosen to volunteer my time.
Over the past 30 years, I have gained a sense of personal growth and fulfillment from time spent helping youth in public schools, churches, and childcare institutions. My perspective as a nurse provided a unique point of view when I worked with groups promoting improved housing in my community. I also ran and was elected to a four-year term on the city council. As I performed my nursing duties, clients would occasionally be aware of my elected role and take the opportunity to make their opinions known on topics pertaining to the city. Other people would attend city council meetings or stop me out in the community to discuss issues. No matter where our conversations were held, the discussion was focused on how to make life better for all of us in our rural Nebraska city.
By being engaged in volunteerism outside of your career work, you serve as an ambassador for your profession. Whether you practice in Gering or Omaha, connecting to your community helps cultivate trust in you and respect for you as a healthcare worker and community member.
– Michelle L. McNea, RN, BSN ‘12