Rural Nursing

Based on the Colorado Health Institute’s 2008 RN Survey, approximately 14 percent of the Colorado RN workforce was employed in a rural area for their primary nursing position in 2008. There were no discernable differences in the demographic characteristics of RNs based on where in the state they were employed. Differences were found in the basic RN training between rural and urban practicing RNs—those practicing in rural areas were significantly more likely to have an associate degree (45%) as their basic RN educational preparation than RNs residing in an urban community (31%). More than half of RNs working in an urban area had a baccalaureate degree, compared to 40 percent of their rural counterparts.

There are 64 counties in the state, ranging in size from 34 square miles (Broomfield) to 4,773 square miles (Las Animas), and in population from 551 (San Juan) to 596,582 (Denver). Forty-seven counties are designated as either rural or frontier; 17 are considered urban. Colorado has a diverse population with striking differences from county to county. For example, approximately 10.9 percent of Coloradans live in poverty, but this percentage differs dramatically across the state, from a low of 2.9 percent in Douglas County to a high of 31.3 percent in Crowley County. These statistics demonstrate the geographic and population diversity in the state and illustrate some of the inherent difficulties in providing high quality, equitable public health services to every Coloradan. (CDPHE 2009 Annual Report).