This study investigates the influences on nursing student learning who live and learn in the same rural environment. A declining health workforce has been identified both globally and in Australia, the effects of which have become significantly apparent in the rural nursing sector. In support of rural educational programs the literature portrays rural clinical practice experiences as significant to student learning. However, there is little available research on what influences learning for the nursing student who studies in their own rural community. The aim of this study was to understand what influences student learning in the rural clinical environment. Through a multiple case study design five nursing students and two clinical preceptors from a rural clinical venue were interviewed.
The interviews were transcribed and thematically analysed to identify factors that influenced student learning outcomes. The most significant influence on nursing student learning in the rural clinical environment was found to include the environment itself, the complex relationships unique to living and studying in a rural community along with the capacity to link theory to practice. The rural environment influences those in it, the demands placed on them, the relationships they form, the ability to promote learning and the time to teach and learn.