Importance of Nurses in Rural South Carolina

While nurses are instrumental in the efficient delivery of healthcare throughout the nation, their geographical demand varies widely. Many nursing positions are concentrated in metropolitan areas due to large populations and proximity to universities and regional hospitals. However, there is a growing need for BSN-prepared nurses to fulfill critical roles in rural communities, especially in South Carolina.

Why Is Rural Nursing Demand Increasing?

Factors driving the demand for nurses in rural South Carolina include current and forecasted nursing shortages as well as an expanding aging population requiring ongoing treatment for complex medical conditions. Unfortunately, many rural residents are isolated from basic healthcare services — a problem compounded by an overall lack of healthcare providers.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 15 percent of South Carolina’s population resides in rural areas. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has designated nearly the entire state as a medically underserved area (MUA), a descriptor used to identify regions and populations without sufficient access to primary care services.

Coupled with HRSA’s projected shortage of more than 10,000 full-time South Carolina nurses by 2030 and multiple rural hospital closures over the last decade, nurses are essential to bridging gaps in patient care and maintaining adequate staffing requirements.

What Skills Do Rural Nurses Require?

Patients living in rural locations are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses and comorbidities, often magnified by limited follow-up care. An influx of BSN-prepared nurses to these areas will assist in satisfying facilities’ minimal staffing needs and allow focused efforts toward improving access to healthcare services via community clinics and mobile units as well as enhancing patient education and health literacy.

Nurses should be prepared to work closely with physicians and midlevel healthcare providers in both disease management and preventive care measures. When working with rural populations, strong communication, leadership and decision-making skills in addition to a solid understanding of the benefits of relationship-building from a community health nursing standpoint will be essential.

Educating patients, not only about acute and chronic conditions but also about insurance plan selection and financial obligations such as deductibles and copays, is an important part of a rural nurse’s daily duties as well. An accredited RN to BSN online degree program helps nurses further explore and develop these characteristics and skill sets.

Where Do Rural Nurses Work?

Common places of employment for rural nurses include:

Critical Access Hospitals. There are five critical access hospitals (CAHs) in South Carolina. These hospitals are generally more than 35 miles from another hospital, have 25 or fewer acute care inpatient beds and provide 24/7 emergency care services. CAHs are located in rural communities and are intended to improve healthcare access among local residents.

Community health centers. Community health clinics provide primary and preventive care in low-income areas where healthcare services are largely unavailable. According to the South Carolina Primary Health Care Association, more than 20 of these facilities operate throughout the state.

Rural health clinics. Rural health clinics are also primary care-focused, but they are designed to accommodate Medicare and Medicaid patients living in outlying areas without adequate medical support. As of 2017, there are 87 rural health clinics serving South Carolina residents.

Mobile health units. Mobile health units are a popular option for patients who are geographically isolated, physically unable to travel to clinics or lack the financial means or time to do so. Mobile units remove these barriers by regularly visiting patients’ homes and surrounding neighborhoods. Units are equipped to provide a range of primary care services as well as preventive measures such as vaccinations, blood pressure and cholesterol screening, and even prescription refills.

Filling a Growing Need

Nurses seeking employment in rural South Carolina have the opportunity to ensure continuity of healthcare services for thousands of the state’s residents. From filling vital staffing vacancies in hospitals and clinics to increasing patient education and healthcare literacy, nurses are able to foster communication and strengthen patient relationships while meeting the region’s unique needs. BSN coursework assists nurses in developing the foundational knowledge necessary to successfully work with such populations and become a true partner in maintaining residents’ lifelong health.

Learn more about the USC Aiken online RN to BSN program.


RHI Hub: Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs)

Becker’s Hospital Review: State-by-State Breakdown of 83 Rural Hospital Closures

Health IT Analytics: Health Literacy Education Key to Rural Population Health, Care Access

S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control: Shortage Maps

RHI Hub: South Carolina

South Carolina Primary Health Care Association: South Carolina Community Health Centers

Hospitals & Health Networks: Rural Hospitals Forced to Get Creative with Recruitment; Essential Traits of Pop Health RN Leaders

HRSA: Supply and Demand Projections of the Nursing Workforce: 2014-2030

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