Rural Preceptorship

Wheat field

Why go rural?

Many nursing students and practicing nurses assume the burdens of rural practice outweigh the benefits. It is true that rural nurses cope with unique challenges, such as distance and limited resources. But it is also true, as many rural nurses and their students will attest, that rural practice offers rewards far beyond professional fulfillment. Not until you set foot in a rural hospital, and see life and work from a rural nurse's perspective, do you see rural nursing is more than just a career.

Nancy Hammer (FoN Class of 2016) shares her rural preceptorship story.

"Working in a rural hospital changed me as a person and as a nurse in the most positive way I could have imagined."

Paige Machuk (FoN Class of 2017)  Read Paige's story

The material on this site is offered for the benefit of nursing students and others eager to explore the world of rural nursing and rural preceptorship.

Who are we?

For over two decades, our team has been investigating rural, clinical teaching and learning in Alberta and across the country. Our recent work has focused on participant action and digital media, as a way of exploring rural nursing through the eyes of rural nurses and students undertaking rural preceptorships.

"Having the ability to rotate through so many different specialty areas really changed my mindset… no day or patient was the same."

- Claire Denton (FoN Class of 2017)
Read Claire's story

Paisly Symenuk (FoN Class of 2017) describes her senior preceptorship experiences in Saddle Lake, AB.

What is rural?

Statistics Canada (2012) defines a rural area as comprising "fewer than 1,000 inhabitants and a population density below 400 people per square kilometer" (p. 1). In terms of health care, a population no greater than 10,000, at least 80 km distant from the nearest major hospital, can be considered rural. (Van Hofwegen, Kirkham, & Harwood, 2005).

Rural nursing, by the numbers


  • Percentage of Canadian population living in rural/remote areas: 18.6% (6.05 m)
  • Percentage of Canadian regulated nurses (RNs, RPNs, LPNs) employed in rural/remote areas: 14.0%


  • Percentage of Canadian population living in rural/remote areas: 17.3% (6.08 m)
  • Percentage of Canadian regulated nurses (RNs, RPNs, LPNs) employed in rural/remote areas: 11.7%

(CIHI, 2016)


Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI, 2016). Regulated Nurses, 2015. Ottawa, ON: Author.

Statistics Canada (2012). Census in brief: Canada's rural population since 1851. Ottawa, ON: Author.>

Van Hofwegen, L., Kirkham, S., & Harwood, C. (2005). The strength of rural nursing: Implications for undergraduate nursing education. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 2(1), Article 27.

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Our Research

Challenges and Opportunities in Rural Preceptorship

snowy road

In our latest participant action research project, participants are documenting the challenges and opportunities of a preceptorship in rural care settings. Their photographs and voices are giving rise to a series of digital stories based on the project output. The first phase of the project (Winter 2016) involved 4th Year nursing students and their rural nurse preceptors. The latest phase of the project (Fall/Winter 2017-18) involves medical students in the Rural Integrated Community Clerkship, and nursing students undertaking senior rural preceptorships, side by side.

Our objectives

  • To explore the benefits and challenges of a rural nursing preceptorship through participants' photographs and comments
  • To empower participants through active engagement in all phases of research: input, analysis, and output
  • To explore how technology can mediate and construct participants' experiences

About the stories

Stars air rescue arm badge

Digital stories (DSs) are short movies comprising still photographs, video clips, narration, text, sound effects and musical underscoring, all centering on a message or theme. In August 2014, three members of the research team attended a workshop at the Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley, CA. We learned how to script, storyboard, record and produce media using tools available to most home computer users. The DSs for Challenges and Opportunities were created using iMovie, PowerPoint, Photoshop and Audacity.

Photovoice Books by Our Team

On Our Own Together: Journeys in Rural Health Care (PDF)

PDF Coverpage

Rural Preceptorship: A Cornucopia of Challenges and Opportunities as Revealed Through Photovoice (PDF)

PDF Cover Page

Through Their Own Eyes: Images of Rural Nursing (PDF)

PDF Coverpage

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