Urban vs Rural Hospitals

Urban vs Rural Hospitals

While every hospital has the same functions, each one operates differently. This is especially the case when examining the difference between urban vs rural hospitals. While they share a lot of similarities, there are also a number of things that set them apart. We are going to examine these differences, and how a travel nurse’s job could be different in urban vs rural hospitals.

Urban vs Rural Hospitals

Hospital building flat style.

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Differences: Urban vs Rural Hospitals

What about the obvious?

First and foremost, there are some obvious differences in urban vs rural hospitals. For example, a key difference is in the names. Urban means: of, relating to, characteristic of, or constituting a city according to Merriam-Webster. Rural, on the other hand, means basically the opposite. It is defined as: of or relating to the country, country people or life, or agriculture; again defined by Merriam-Webster. If your travel nursing dreams are based in New York City, then you might be better off looking in more urban areas for a new assignment. However, if you are more comfortable in small towns or in the countryside, rural assignments are definitely a better fit.

Cost of Living

While the costs of your assignment are not the most important deciding factor, it can be something worth looking into. Rural areas typically have a lower cost of living, meaning that even though you’re making the same amount of money, you’re spending less on housing, food, etc. You’re getting to keep a larger portion of your income, which over time can become a significant sum of money. More often than not, urban areas have much higher costs of living, largely due to higher taxes. Housing might be paid for by your agency. However, you still could be paying higher prices for other essential items on the road.

Experiences on Assignment

Again, all hospitals have the same core functions: employ nursing staff, take care of patients, etc. However, the location of the hospitals can create a big difference in what you will be doing while on a travel nursing assignment. The biggest difference between urban vs rural hospitals in terms of workload is how many different tasks you will be completing in a rural hospital. Typically, rural areas have a much smaller population than urban areas, meaning they likely do not need to have as big of a hospital staff as a hospital in NYC would for example. It is highly likely that if you are on assignment in a rural hospital, you are completing a more diverse range of tasks than usual. While it may seem scary to step outside your comfort zone at first, it can really open you up to a larger variety of experiences and improve your skillset. You will learn how to solve problems outside of your own specialty –  a skill that is highly sought after in the medical field.

Distribution of Hospitals

According to a study done by James Hatten and Rose Connerton, a main difference in urban vs rural hospitals is the distribution across the states. For example, hospitals in Washington D.C., New Jersey, and Rhode Island are completely urban. Arizona and Indiana have about an equal number of hospitals being rural and urban. Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota have more than 90 percent of their hospitals classified as rural. Pretty cool right? Some of the states’ classifications are shocking. This information can be beneficial to you as you start to look for new assignments. Did you have your heart set on a specific area before? Now, you can use your preference of urban vs rural hospitals to pick the best location for you.

Level of Authority

Typically, due to the smaller population and hospital size, rural hospitals only have one primary physician, or a small handful of physicians and nurses. However, the opposite is the case with urban hospitals. They tend to have a much larger chain of command. Sometimes it can be hard to differentiate the different levels of authority. There could be physicians, medical students, physician residents, charge nurses and more all working in the same specialty at the same hospital. This can make it difficult to discern where you fit in, but proper communication and knowledge of boundaries can help.


What are your thoughts on urban vs rural hospitals? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!


Author: Travel Nurse Source

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