Rural Public Health Nurses and Barriers to Serving the Special Needs Population

A study of health information needs of rural Oregon nurses published in 2008 indicates that there is a need to expand health literacy resources for the rural special needs population:

In addition to general nursing care resources, home visiting nurses wanted detailed resources for caring for patients with disabilities.  (p. 337)

For patients with disabilities that do not live in larger, urban areas access to special needs resources can be extremely limited. This lack of resources can also be extended to the local public health nurses that serve the population. Rural nurses and caretakers face the same barriers as their isolated community, including limited information resources, internet access, and training. (p. 336) Through their interviews, the authors noted that numerous rural public health nurses experienced frustration while attempting to use online database for their information needs. Reasons stated included frustration with restricted login access to databases and patient information that was too advanced for the reading level of their patients. (p. 339).

There is a need to improve access and training to the rural medical community across the board. However, those with special needs already have numerous barriers to health literacy resources and assistive technology. Therefore, when their public health nurses are also facing barriers to information resources, these barriers are magnified.

Turner AM, Stavri Z, Revere D, Altamore R. From the ground up: information needs of nurses in a rural public health department in Oregon. J Med Libr Assoc 2008 Oct;96(4):335-342. doi:  10.3163/1536-5050.96.4.008