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The Influence of Rural Healthcare Systems and Communities on Surgery and Recovery: A Qualitative Study.

Johnson JE, Bleicher J, Blumling AN, Cain BT, Cohan JN, Savarise M, Harris AHS, Kaphingst KA, Huang LC. The Influence of Rural Healthcare Systems and Communities on Surgery and Recovery: A Qualitative Study. The Journal of surgical research. 2023 Jan 1; 281:155-163.

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INTRODUCTION: Successful recovery after surgery is complex and highly individual. Rural patients encounter greater barriers to successful surgical recovery than urban patients due to varying healthcare and community factors. Although studies have previously examined the recovery process, rural patients'' experiences with recovery have not been well-studied. The rural socioecological context can provide insights into potential barriers or facilitators to rural patient recovery after surgery. METHODS: We conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with a purposeful sample of 30 adult general surgery patients from rural areas in the Mountain West region of the United States. We used the socioecological framework to analyze their responses. Interviews focused on rural participants'' experiences accessing healthcare and the impact of family and community support during postoperative recovery. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded using content and thematic analysis. RESULTS: All participants commented on the quality of their rural healthcare systems and its influence on postoperative care. Some enjoyed the trust developed through long-standing relationships with providers in their communities. However, participants described community providers'' lack of money, equipment, and/or knowledge as barriers to care. Following surgery, participants recognized that there are advantages and disadvantages to receiving family and community support. Some participants worried about being stigmatized or judged by their community. CONCLUSIONS: Future interventions aimed at improving access to and recovery from surgery for rural patients should take into account the unique perspectives of rural patients. Addressing the socioecological factors surrounding rural surgery patients, such as healthcare, family, and community resources, will be key to improving postoperative recovery.

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