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Differences between urban and remote nursing

7 Apr 2023

CRANAplus Professional Officer Michelle Mason highlights some of the differences between urban and remote nursing, including location, staffing, skill set, resources and lifestyle, and provides general tips to prepare for going remote.


Gen­er­al­ly, you have to trav­el to a remote set­ting, some­times hours by road. Some remote places require a plane to get to, espe­cial­ly after a wet sea­son as dirt roads can get cut off with water. A ben­e­fit of remote loca­tions is that there’s no traf­fic or traf­fic lights! The Mod­i­fied Monash Mod­el can be a help­ful guide to remoteness. 


There are less staff based in a remote clin­i­cal facil­i­ty (hos­pi­tal or clin­ic) as there are less ser­vices avail­able. In some set­tings there are no doc­tors on site per­ma­nent­ly; instead, they’re on call via phone or teleconference. 

In oth­ers, they vis­it reg­u­lar­ly, such as once a week. In urban set­tings, you may have dozens of nurs­es in each depart­ment, along with clin­i­cal edu­ca­tors, man­agers, ancil­lary staff, admin staff and even emer­gency ser­vices with a sim­ple 000 call. In a remote set­ting, the emer­gency ser­vices often con­sist of nurs­es or Abo­rig­i­nal health prac­ti­tion­ers. Spe­cial­ists may vis­it remote regions less fre­quent­ly, and refer­rals are required for some pro­ce­dures such as surgery, scans, and X‑rays, which are often done in urban facilities. 

Skill set

Although there are many skills required to work in a met­ro­pol­i­tan hos­pi­tal, espe­cial­ly in spe­cial­ist con­texts such as Emer­gency and Inten­sive Care, work­ing in a remote set­ting requires nurs­es to be gen­er­al spe­cial­ists’ which means hav­ing var­ied expe­ri­ence, knowl­edge and skill across mul­ti­ple areas. This may range from emer­gency skills, pri­ma­ry health care, health pro­mo­tion, chron­ic dis­eases, pal­lia­tive care, men­tal health, women’s health, and child’s health.


In many cas­es in remote set­tings, there may only be one or two shops avail­able, a school and lim­it­ed sports or com­mu­ni­ty groups.


Major dif­fer­ences with lifestyles will depend on the loca­tion. Most remote places won’t have a cof­fee shop down the road but will have beau­ti­ful land­scapes for walk­ing, fish­ing, and camping.

The take home message? 

Work­ing in an urban set­ting and work­ing in a remote set­ting are dif­fer­ent types of nurs­ing. Both have their rewards and chal­lenges. It’s piv­otal to do your research before choos­ing which type of nurs­ing is for you.

If you decide you want to go remote, we encour­age you to inves­ti­gate the wide range of resources, sup­port, and edu­ca­tion CRANAplus can offer to sup­port your tran­si­tion to remote health care. Our Going Remote Guide’ is a good place to start. We’re also hap­py to send print­ed copies out to you. You can request these via professionalservices@​crana.​org.​au.