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Nursing Shortage in Texas Rural Areas

All across the country — in bustling urban centers, quiet suburbs or remote rural areas — there is a need for adequate health care. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for certain areas to face shortages of medical facilities and nurses to work in them. Rural nursing care is especially important today, but it is often difficult to come by, and a substantial number of Texans who live in rural areas are facing this predicament.

The Challenges

Many factors, including an aging population, retiring nurses and more patients with chronic health problems, have been contributing to a shortage of nurses across the U.S. in recent years.

People who live in rural areas of Texas need the same access to health care as anyone else, but that care is often not readily available. It is common for Texas residents of these areas to be many miles from the nearest medical facility. When healthcare facilities are available in rural areas, they may lack specialized equipment and personnel. Therefore, patients might need to travel even further to more urban areas that have facilities that can provide the care they need. This is inconvenient and impractical — not to mention dangerous — especially when rural residents are facing acute medical problems.

In Texas, the shortage of nurses is especially serious in rural areas. Nurses are in such demand today that it is common for them to receive multiple job offers, and if they receive better-paying and more appealing offers in cities, they are likely to accept those rather than work in rural areas. Many nurses are not drawn to rural areas unless they have compelling reasons to live there.

Developing Solutions

The number of qualified nurses who provide services in rural areas needs to increase. How to do that is the challenging issue, but luckily, there are some viable ideas.

Many potential nurses who live in rural areas are struggling financially and do not have the funds to complete the education — a bachelor’s degree, for example — to become nurses.

Grant programs have emerged that assist nurses who need financial help to pay for the education they need. The grant money goes to various universities so they can provide scholarships and loan forgiveness to their students and graduates. These types of grants help reduce the financial barriers to would-be nurses, which can ease the shortage of nurses, especially in rural areas. Providing better access to nursing education through innovative strategies such as online degree programs can also be effective at increasing the number of qualified nurses in rural settings.

Developing partnerships between local hospitals and universities to recruit and retain qualified nurses can also help reduce the nursing shortage in rural areas by helping to fill positions in hospitals, home health services and long-term care facilities.

The shortage of nurses and other healthcare providers in rural areas is not an easy problem to fix, but continuing to seek out solutions is beginning to pay off. The future looks brighter in terms of rural nursing in Texas, so there is reason to be hopeful that the rural nursing shortage will end.

Learn about the UT Arlington online BSN program.


Sources:

Hill Country Community Journal. ‘Baby boomers,’ rural setting drives local nursing shortage

U.S. Still Headed for Nurse Shortage

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Rural Nursing Facing Unique Workforce Challenges

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Texas needs more nurses, doctors


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