The role of social support networks for rural hospital nurses: supporting and sustaining the rural nursing work force

J Nurs Adm. 2002 May;32(5):264-72. doi: 10.1097/00005110-200205000-00006.


Objective: This survey study describes the workplace social support networks of rural hospital nurses in one geographic region of Colorado. This rural sample was compared with data from a sample of urban hospital nurses in Colorado.

Background: Social support networks influence nurses' satisfaction and retention. Nursing recruitment and retention is especially critical in rural areas where it takes healthcare facilities 60% longer than urban facilities to fill nursing vacancies. Little is known about rural nurses' social support networks.

Methods: The Social Network Questionnaire (SNQ) was mailed to all nurses within one rural region of Colorado. Descriptive, correlational and comparative statistics were used to evaluate the structure and function of these nurses' networks.

Results: The nurses' networks were predominantly peer-based, but managers provided significant functional supports. The types of support provided by managers depended on the managers' placement in the nurses' networks. Some managers provided only performance feedback, and other managers offered physical assistance and emotional support. Rural nurses expected more guidance from management than did their urban counterparts.

Implications: This sample of nurses clearly delineated the types of leadership styles most beneficial to them. Communication of roles and expectations between staff and management can enhance nursing satisfaction in the workplace setting.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Colorado
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Rural*
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Job Description
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Leadership
  • Male
  • Needs Assessment
  • Nurse Administrators / organization & administration
  • Nurse Administrators / psychology
  • Nurse's Role
  • Nursing Administration Research
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / education
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / supply & distribution
  • Nursing, Supervisory / organization & administration*
  • Peer Group
  • Personnel Loyalty
  • Personnel Turnover / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workforce
  • Workplace / psychology*