Nurses and midwives represent the largest group of health professionals in the Australian health care system. In rural environments nurses and midwives make up a greater proportion of the health workforce than in urban settings, which makes their role in service provision even more significant. The role and scope of these nurses and midwives' practice is by necessity more generalist than specialist, which results in disciplinary strengths and weaknesses. As generalist health professionals they work in diverse settings such as public hospitals, multi-purpose services, community health, aged care and in non-government and private for profit and no-profit organisations including general practices. Their scope of practice covers prevention, intervention and rehabilitation and is lifespan inclusive. Rural nurses and midwives are older than their metropolitan based counterparts, work part-time and traditionally have limited access to professional development often due to ineffective locum relief programs. Workplace inflexibility, access to acceptable housing and partner employment are factors cited as inhibitors to growing this workforces. The future of the rural nursing and midwifery workforce will only be secured if Government invests to a greater degree in both education and training and the development of a nationally agreed remuneration scale that allows for part-time work.