Chapter 6

Australian Mental Health Nursing: The Challenges of Working in Rural and Remote Communities

Angela T. Ragusa and Andrew Crowther


In Australia, nursing is a high-growth occupation. In part, this is due to the population’s increasing age, as well as its quantity of rural residents. National statistics show heightened ‘rurality’, sociologically understood as the degree to which an area is more rural than urban, heightens health care needs. This includes the need for mental health care services. Rural and remote Australia has fewer specialists, worse health care access and poses greater socioeconomic and geographical challenges, such as longer commutes and waiting lists for services, and greater environmental risk exposure, than urban Australia. Mental health nurses, therefore, are an invaluable resource whose skills and services supplement, and often replace, service gaps in health care provision in disadvantaged communities. Living and working in rural and remote communities, however, pose unique challenges. As individual employees, mental health nurses tend to struggle to achieve workplace satisfaction in environments challenged by systemic and demographic changes and inadequacies. Historical changes in the training and delivery of mental health nursing warrant in-depth exploration to better understand how socioenvironmental context may impact its needs and future success. This chapter commences the task by providing primary-collected focus group data collected in community and in-patient settings in rural New South Wales, Australia. By using a sociological lens, a qualitative, thematic analysis offers empirically-grounded insights into the challenges and perceptions mental health nurses face as healthcare providers. Findings will benefit both local and global audiences wishing to commence social change. Specifically, it may interest existing and future researchers and practitioners interested in healthcare delivery, occupational satisfaction or rural communities, as well as those broadly questioning how the dynamics of power, status and control affect the well-being of people and places.

Total Pages: 253-299 (47)

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