Literature regarding utilization of emergency services has long supported the concept that a substantial portion of primary care received by the urban and rural poor, as well as the uninsured, is being administered through local emergency departments. This descriptive study sought to correlate selected demographic variables, health care resources, and perceived urgency of care to use of the emergency department by the rural client. Utilizing Roy's Theory of Adaptation as a theoretical framework, the methodology is similar to a study conducted on urban clients by Shesser, Kirsch, Smith, and Hirsch (1991). Three research questions guided this study: What is the relationship between selected demographic variables and use of the rural emergency department for minor illness? What is the relationship between perceived urgency and use of the rural emergency department for minor illness? What is the relationship between health care resources and use of the rural emergency department for minor illness? A sample (N = 55) of ambulatory emergency department patients was selected from one rural hospital in a southeastern state. The subjects were given a self-report questionnaire at the time of registration, which was between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on weekdays. Records were reviewed retrospectively for inclusion in the study based on exclusion criteria developed by Shesser et al. (1991). Data were analyzed utilizing descriptive statistics, chi-square, and Pearson Product Moment Correlation. Results indicated a significant relationship between the demographic variables of gender, race, education, employment, method of payment, major sources of financial support, and income with use of the ED for minor illness. Perceived urgency was explored with a significant correlation between discomfort and perception of seriousness by the subject. Respondents expected to be treated within 24 hours of the onset of illness. Individuals chose the ED for care because it was either more convenient or they were unable to secure an appointment with a health care provider. The implication for nursing is that the nurse practitioner could play an important role in the ED as the health care provider for minor illness problems. Recommendations include replication of the study utilizing larger samples, alternate sites, and subjects across the age span.


Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)


Graduate Nursing

Degree Date


Publication Number


First Advisor

Lynn Chilton

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Patricia Curtis

Third Advisor

Mary Jo Kirkpatrick

Document Type


Included in

Nursing Commons