Abstract

Rural health issues are increasingly recognized as needing attention, but many health policies in Canada are developed for the urban context and universally applied to rural settings. Addressing rural nurses' opportunities for involvement in policy will contribute to our general understanding of rural health while improving community health services. Rural nurses are in a unique position to assist because of their intimate knowledge of their communities and their position as informal community leaders. Challenges to their involvement include decreased numbers and lack of educational preparation about policy. A strength is the higher percentage of rural nurses who are managers compared to their urban counterparts. Nursing education programs need to include theoretical content and practical opportunities related to health policy. Managers need to support rural nurses' attempts in policy development by providing opportunities for membership on policy committees. Finally, once obtaining skills in the policy arena, rural nurses need to work within their communities and workplaces to help develop and implement more appropriate rural-based policies.