What is different about rural health nursing: A philosophical exploration

Jessica G Smith, Sharon Laver

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Rural nursing is not spot treatment of diseases separate from the mind, body, and spirit. It is critical for nursing students to appreciate that nursing care in small rural communities cannot be provided from a “buffet” approach. Rural nurses committed to their communities understand that choosing who is cared for based on personal care provision preferences does not meet a moral and ethical standard of practice. Further, holding a classist view of rural residents as “less than” based on characteristics such as limited educational attainment reinforces a lack of cultural humility.

Structural factors within nursing education programs, such as curriculum biases towards high-end acute care, and a focus on specialisation, could deter undergraduate nursing students in desiring to learn about the unique role of a rural nurse generalist.

Rural nursing requires a paradigm shift to caring for people and communities from cradle-to-grave—true person-cantered care.

Professional culture change is needed from individualist approaches of specialist service provision to embracing the value of being a generalist, building on marketable ‘soft skills’ such as flexibility, collaboration, communication, integrity, and acceptance. Rural nurses are adept at overcoming care challenges as partners and members of communities dedicated to serving and improving population health. Building a stronger philosophical care basis inclusive of all people, honouring their age, gender, ethnicity, and other characteristics that distinguish them as human beings, is long overdue.

The purpose of this panel session is to facilitate an exploratory discussion about the philosophical underpinnings of rural health nursing. The starting point of this exploration will be the poem, “The Ambulance Down in the Valley”, (Joseph Malins, 1895), which illustrates the tension between focusing on treatment after the fact and prevention in the first instance. Attendees will contribute to an open dialogue about including a rural nursing philosophical focus in undergraduate nursing curriculum.

Malins, J. (1895). The Ambulance Down in the Valley. https://tonycooke.org/stories-and-illustrations/ambulance-valley/
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2023
EventThe Hybrid 26th International Nursing Philosophy Conference 2023: IPONS 2023 - University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 27 Sept 202329 Sept 2023
Conference number: 26
https://www.ipons-sydney.org/ (Conference website)
https://www.ipons-sydney.org/program (Program)


ConferenceThe Hybrid 26th International Nursing Philosophy Conference 2023
Abbreviated titleRe-imagining a nursing ecosystem in an uncertain world
OtherThe 26th International Nursing Philosophy Conference, hosted by Sydney nursing school, will be held at the University of Sydney in the Susan Wakil Health Building from 27 - 29 September 2023.

The program , will aim to elucidate nursing’s ability to challenge the threat that uncertainty brings to all facets of human existence and provide leadership in dealing with these issues through a philosophical lens.

The Sydney Nursing School’s aspiration of caring and teaching emphasises interconnectedness and inclusivity within and beyond our campuses. It is for this reason we are collaborating with like-minded academics, the International Philosophy of Nursing Society (IPONS) and the Centre for Philosophy (Irvine, USA) and invite you, nursing academics and students, from Australia and beyond to join us at this important conference. We invite you as speakers and delegates. We invite you as colleagues to share and gain knowledge and expertise through presentations and workshops.

The University of Sydney’s story is that of “Education for all, leadership for good.” It’s DNA substrate of progressive thinking, breaking with convention, challenging the status quo, and improving the world around us, reverberates with this conference theme. In hosting a philosophical conference with the theme “re-imagining a nursing ecosystem in an uncertain world” we are reinforcing the vision of progressive thinking, breaking with convention, challenging the status quo, and improving the world around us.
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