Fostering Interprofessional Relationships through Rural Nursing

Faculty of Nursing graduate Shaelyn Empson is grateful for her Rural Interprofessional Preceptorship despite being cut short due to COVID-19.

27 July 2020

Though Shaelyn Empson’s rural preceptorship ended early due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was still her most memorable experience over the course of her four years as a nursing student. Throughout her time in Westlock, Empson was continually challenged professionally but found the interdisciplinary bond she developed with her classmates — and experiencing firsthand the tight-knit community that goes hand-in-hand with a rural setting —allowed her to meet these challenges head-on. 

It’s amazing to look back and see just how much I learned and how quickly I developed my knowledge and skills as a nursing student,” explained Empson. “I feel extremely confident going into my career as a Registered Nurse knowing that no matter which area of nursing I find myself in, I have developed the skills to learn and adapt to the environment and each patients’ needs. Being in a rural nursing preceptorship allowed me to develop those skills, and I’ll always be grateful for that experience.”

Empson graduated from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Nursing in the Spring of 2020 and plans to become a Nurse Practitioner so she can provide accessible care to a rural community. Below, Empson delves deeper into her experiences during her rural Interprofessional Preceptorship (IP) and the unexpected rewards that result from nursing in a rural community. 

What did your rural interprofessional preceptorship entail?

As a nurse, I was able to work with labour and delivery patients, patients in the emergency room, post-operative patients, palliative patients, and a wide variety of medical patients. As a member of the healthcare team, I was able to work with, and further develop my understanding of the roles of the other members of the healthcare team. I was working with two medical students in Westlock on our interprofessional assignments. We assessed patients together and then discussed care plans and goals of care to ensure the healthcare team was working together in the best way possible. We also discussed what it was like to work in a rural community and how it differs from working in a city.

Is interprofessional bonding more prevalent in a rural setting? 

I do believe that interprofessional bonding is stronger in a rural setting. No matter which unit I was placed on for my shift, I was always working with the same members of the healthcare team. Getting to see and work with the same team members every shift meant I really got to know them as a part of the healthcare team, and as individuals and community members. Being in a small hospital also meant that all the students placed there got to know each other. Not just the medical students and myself working on the interprofessional assignments, but students in other areas of health care. As students, we had a ‘we’re all in this together” mentality where we would help each other answer work-related questions, and go out in the evenings to watch hockey, go bowling, or have dinner. We were all living away from our family and friends so having people at the hospital our age and in school was a quick way to bond. This bond has exceeded the convenience of living and working in the same rural town as we are all still talking and planning to meet up while adhering to the COVID-19 health guidelines. 

Growing your own in rural nursing is common. What do you think it is about rural nursing that makes people want to come back? 

I think nurses in general have the drive to care for others in the best way possible. The only way to provide that level of care is to continue to learn and expand on your knowledge. Rural nursing continuously provides that opportunity for professional development and feeds our drives to be the best nurses possible for our patients. Rural nursing also fosters the opportunity for close personal relationships. Consistently getting to see the same people at work and in the community allows you to build friendships with people you may never have gotten to know if you were in a larger hospital or community. For me, these are the main reasons I want to return to a rural nursing practice.

Why should students pursue a career in rural nursing?

There are so many reasons students should pursue a career in rural nursing. It allows you to feel an overwhelming sense of community and support, it encourages you to develop independence in your skills as a nurse, and it inspires you to keep your passion for learning alive.


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