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Keywords:

  • health disparities;
  • health services research;
  • nursing;
  • rural health;
  • school health

Abstract

Purpose

Little is known about the professional and educational challenges experienced by rural school nurses. We conducted this study to describe disparities between the urban and rural professional school nurse workforce in New Mexico and to identify how best to meet the continuing education needs of New Mexico's rural school nurse workforce.

Methods

We analyzed state data from a 2009 New Mexico Department of Health school nurse workforce survey (71.7% response rate). We included all survey respondents who indicated working as a school nurse in a public school setting in any grade K-12 and who identified their county of employment (N = 311).

Findings

Rural school nurses were twice as likely as metropolitan nurses to provide clinical services to multiple school campuses (67.3% compared to 30.1%, P < .0001). They were less likely to hold a nursing degree at the baccalaureate level or higher (62.7% compared to 82.3%, P = .0002). Rural school nurses were less likely than metropolitan nurses to have received recent continuing education on anaphylaxis (P < .0001), asthma (P = .027), body mass index (BMI)/healthy weight (P = .0002), diabetes (P < .0001), lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) health (P = .0004), and suicide risk identification and prevention (P = .015). Online courses and telehealth were identified by rural school nurses as among the preferred means for receiving continuing education.

Conclusions

Our findings support the provision of online courses and telehealth content to address urban-rural disparities in school nursing education and support rural school health.