Learning Maternity: The Experiences of Rural Nurses

Karen MacKinnon

Abstract


Two research studies explored rural nurses' experience with the provision of maternity care in rural British Columbia, Canada. Frontline nurses, managers, and health-care providers were interviewed and their practices observed. One of the main challenges identified by rural nurses was ensuring that a knowledgeable/skilled maternity or perinatal nurse was always available at the local hospital. Learning how to provide safe and supportive maternity care is difficult for nurses working in small rural hospitals today due to declining birth rates, increased workloads, and a decrease in opportunities for mentoring. Decisions about the allocation of time off and resources for rural nurses' continuing professional education (CPE) were structured by discourses of personal responsibility for "continuing competence." These institutional work processes increase the burden on rural nurses, negatively affecting their opportunities for CPE and their experiences of providing maternity care, with implications for both patient safety and nurse retention.

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