Degree Name

Master of Nursing - Research


School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health


This study has been conducted to explore the issues affecting the recruitment and retention of nurses in the rural general practice setting. There is a lack of qualitative research about the rural practice nurse role and why rural practice nurses remain in the Australian primary healthcare workforce. Commonly, research in this area has been characterised by the role of urban practice nurses, the role and retention issues of rural community and hospital nurses and workforce retention issues for rural health practitioners. This is the first study conducted solely on rural practice nurses in Australia, and seeks to capture three key objectives: to investigate why rural practice nurses remain in their role, to identify social aspects that effect rural practice nurse retention, and to identify professional aspects that effect practice nurse retention.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive and convenience sample of rural practice nurses working in communities on the south coast of New South Wales in 2008. Data saturation was attained after seven interviews. Thematic analysis of the transcribed interviews was conducted using the NVivo 7 software package to organise data. The four main themes that emerged were the pursuit for professional recognition, grooming nursing services to meet needs, being ‘good for business’ (making money), and mastering the art of living.

This study is a starting point to understand the role of rural Australian practice nurses, and has provided an insight into the personal and professional life journey of rural practice nursing. The most satisfying aspects of the role were when nurses felt professionally trusted and respected, had designated nursing space and could achieve a life-work balance. The most challenging aspects of the role were moulding their nursing services within parameters of changing financial incentive programs, and the need for greater education opportunities to support the evolving generalist role. The nurses felt they needed to be professionally valued with greater remuneration. With changing primary healthcare policy incorporating the expansion of the practice nurse role, strategic support planning for the rural practice nurse workforce is essential.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.