Academic journal article Rural Society

'I Think It Is the Best Job ... I Love It!' Engendering Workplace Satisfaction in Rural and Remote Australian Mental Health Nursing

Academic journal article Rural Society

'I Think It Is the Best Job ... I Love It!' Engendering Workplace Satisfaction in Rural and Remote Australian Mental Health Nursing

Article excerpt

Mental health nursing is a distinct specialisation traversing both the broader field of general nursing and mental healthcare. Statistically, mental health nurses comprise 5.5% of all nurses in Australia (Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, 2011). This specialisation has been described as 'in decline' in the state of New South Wales for over 20 years due to decreased governmental funding, changes in occupational training and higher education requirements, as well as an overall perceived devaluation of the field (Crowther & Ragusa, 2011). This trend has occurred whilst Australian government statistics simultaneously reveal increased government expenditure on mental illness as a proportion of services commonly provided by general practitioners (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW], 2010). Internationally, it is well documented that general practitioners, however, are typically ill prepared to attend to mental illness and nurses not specifically trained in mental health feel their training is inadequate to respond to workplace demands (Hopkins, Loeb, & Fick, 2009; Stickley, 2002). In the United States, the undesirability of mental health nursing as a profession (Halter, 2008), combined with reduced government funding and increased administrative duties has resulted in diminished time for nurses to dedicate to patient care and subsequently, decreased patient satisfaction (Hopkins et al., 2009). Such findings have been documented in Australia (Ragusa & Crowther, forthcoming) and highlight the growing disparity between service needs and realities.

For mental health nurses living and working in rural and remote Australia, the impact of geography compounds existing challenges and demands being broadly experienced in the profession. This is true for mental health nurses as employees, as well as for the patients and clients they serve. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, rural areas experience a 'harsher environment' in contrast with Australian cities. The impact the physical environment, particularly drought and flooding for instance, has on individuals and places not only economically impacts rural Australians, but also affects their mental health and well-being over time, with non-metropolitan residents associated with increased risk (1.1 times higher) of developing a mental disorder over one's lifetime, higher rates of substance use and 1.3 higher incidences of death by suicide (AIHW, 2010).

This article commences by comparing key demographic characteristics in rural and urban Australia. Couched amid the much-publicised, contemporary trend of voluntary residential mobility, known by human geography researchers as 'in-' and 'out-migration', rural Australia is argued to be a unique physical and social environment. For example, rural Australians have lower economic status and experience poorer health than those in its major metropolises, where much of the population resides (AIHW, 2010). In comparison with urban areas, rural Australia has a smaller population size, reduced quality, quantity and access to medical services, higher unemployment and obesity rates, and a range of other socioeconomically disadvantaging characteristics. These factors create a living and working environment with unique mental health concerns. To understand the unique mental health care needs of rural Australians requires empirical examination of their health care providers. This research builds upon existing knowledge by specifically examining the experiences of rural and remote mental health nurses.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Much prior national and international research has focused on how workplace demands affect mental health nurses' workplace experiences. Examples include the impact of stress, burnout and bullying as noted by Rose & Glass (2006) in their extensive literature review. Likewise, the link between work environments and workplace satisfaction among nurses and patients has been identified by many national and international studies empirically examining issues of retention, professional training and advancement, flexible work schedules, decision-making capacity and autonomy, as well as relationships in interdisciplinary health care teams (Roche & Duffield, 2010). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.