Rural nurses fear for the profession

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Mental health nurses in rural and remote NSW have expressed concern that they fear their profession is dying.

The concern was expressed during an on-going study which is examining the experience of working as a rural or remote mental health nurse in NSW.

“The research was undertaken to address the unique workplace challenges and experiences of mental health nurses in rural and remote areas of the state,” said Dr Andrew Crowther and Dr Angela Ragusa, researchers from Charles Sturt University (CSU).

The project’s preliminary findings indicate there is a continued shortage of these health professionals in rural and remote areas.  

“In some locations, if and when the nurses were replaced, it was often by generalist trained nurses,” said Dr Ragusa from the CSU School of Humanities and Social Sciences in Wagga Wagga.

“This is problematic for a number of reasons, the most blatant being the misalignment of professional skills and training which equip nurses to meet the workplace demands and requirements of mental health patients.”  

“The nurses in the study reported a range of perceptions about their work experiences in rural and remote Australia, the most common being a perception of professional isolation,” said Dr Crowther from the CSU School of Nursing and Midwifery.

“They identified concerns such as a lack of support and recognition from both other health professionals and the judicial system and some reported a feeling that the profession may be dying.” 

“Mental health nurses makeup 80 per cent of the workforce in the mental health area in rural and remote NSW and therefore are a vital part of the provision of care,” said Dr Crowther.

“Rural and remote mental health nursing is a complex work environment that poses different challenges than urban workplaces not only due to staff shortages and workplace stress, but also because the work conditions in rural and remote Australia are unique,” said the CSU researchers.

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