Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

Fall 2014


According to the 2010 U.S. census, approximately 59 million people (19%) in the United States reside in a rural area. More than fifteen percent of the nursing workforce is employed in a rural area. This creates a nurse to patient staffing ratio of 1 nurse for 117 people. This ratio demonstrates a large need for nursing personnel in the rural workforce. With a high patient to nurse ratio, rural nurses can be described to be valuable and in high demand. Rural nurses are valued for their ability to utilize different nursing specialties and care for patients all across the age spectrum. One nursing specialty that is seen often in rural settings is pediatrics. However, in the topic of rural pediatric nursing, there is little literature available.

A pilot study was designed to gain an understanding of rural nurses’ perspectives on their capacity to care for a pediatric patient within their work setting in either northern or eastern Maine. This study looked at the following issues: work experience, pediatric patient population, accessibility, most observed pediatric diagnosis, pediatric social issues, academic preparedness of rural nurses, and the strengths and weaknesses of rural pediatric nursing.

Nurses stated that a lack of exposure to pediatric patients and a lack of access to pediatric specialists were major weaknesses in their work settings. Overall, the nurses surveyed felt that additional training was required to continue the competency of pediatric nursing in order to accommodate the low pediatric patient census. The purpose of this thesis was to examine rural pediatric health on a community level and ignite further research studies on improving nursing and patient care within this environment.