Rural Nursing: Navigating Inconsistent Nurse Schedules in Small Clinics

Travel nursing can take you to beautiful cities and towns across the country. While this includes the bustling hubs like New York City or Los Angeles, it also means everywhere in between. You may fancy a trip to a metropolis every once in a while, expect your career to occasionally lead to the rural in-betweens.  

When you accept a contract for a small town, don’t anticipate having a work or living schedule that is identical to your urban habits. Rural America comes with its own set of challenges and perks. When we say rural – we mean a small town, complete with family-owned clinics and maybe a hospital or two within the county. You know, a place that may have more cows than people. If you find yourself in one of these areas, here’s what to expect when working at a small clinic: 

Expect an inconsistent schedule 

In a city like Miami, nearly every healthcare facility operates at a full schedule. Patients are ushered in and out of care, with the medical staff cramming to give every client equal diagnosing time. This isn’t always the case in a small clinic. Often, there are only one or two doctors on staff. According to Blue Pipes, travel nurses should be prepared for downtime that can turn crazy at a moment’s notice. If three patients come into a small rural clinic with only one doctor, it can be up to you to assist in making sure everyone feels seen and heard. You will have to be prepared to rapidly accelerate to fit the situation and to find things to do when you’re not immediately needed. Rural jobs don’t always fit individuals with a ton of energy, so if you like to be always on the go, you may have some issues adjusting to this small clinic. 

mature nurse and doctor looking at laptop

The nurse-doctor relationship

If you’re at a small clinic, you may very well not just be the travel nurse, but the only nurse. You may find yourself working with a staff that is only half a dozen people. Expect to get to know every colleague – which can make or break the working experience.  According to a study published in Nursing Management, many people become travel nurses to get a better working environment, one where they can feel more like a person and less like a cog in the machine. Working in a small clinic is guaranteed to fix this aspect of your job. However, a smaller colleague pool means that every relationship is more significant. 

Getting a house may be difficult

Lastly, housing can be hard to find. Small towns don’t usually have apartment complexes with easy rent agreements. Expect any lease that you sign to be long-term. If you are committing to working in a small rural area, understand that you may be there for at least a year. Don’t be afraid to ask your recruiter and their agency if they have any housing connections in that area. With housing partners across the country and a database filled with nurses living or working in the area, it’s worth a shot to ask for any housing recommendations or accommodations! 

Working as a travel nurse in a small clinic is challenging but rewarding. You can more directly see your impact on the community and may form more lasting relationships. 

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