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Keywords:

  • chief nursing officers;
  • community nurses;
  • quality care;
  • rural culture;
  • rural hospitals

baernholdt m., jennings b.m., merwin e. & thornlow d. (2010) What does quality care mean to nurses in rural hospitals? Journal of Advanced Nursing66(6), 1346–1355.

Abstract

Title. What does quality care mean to nurses in rural hospitals?

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study conducted to answer the question: ‘How do rural nurses and their chief nursing officers define quality care?’

Background.  Established indicators of quality care were developed primarily in urban hospitals. Rural hospitals and their environments differ from urban settings, suggesting that there might be differences in how quality care is defined. This has measurement implications.

Methods.  Focus groups with staff nurses and interviews with chief nursing officers were conducted in 2006 at four rural hospitals in the South-Eastern United States of America. Data were analysed using conventional content analysis.

Findings.  The staff nurse and chief nursing officer data were analysed separately and then compared, exposing two major themes: ‘Patients are what matter most’ and ‘Community connectedness is both a help and a hindrance’. Along with conveying that patients were the utmost priority and all care was patient-focused, the first theme included established indicators of quality such as falls, pressure ulcers, infection rates, readmission rates, and lengths of stay. A new discovery in this theme was a need for an indicator relevant for rural settings: transfer time to larger hospitals. The second theme, Community Connectedness, is unique to rural settings, exemplifying the rural culture. The community and hospital converge into a family of sorts, creating expectations for quality care by both patients and staff that are not typically found in urban settings and larger hospitals.

Conclusion.  Established quality indicators are appropriate for rural hospitals, but additional indicators need to be developed. These must include transfer times to larger facilities and the culture of the community.