Volume 17, Issue 1 (2022) Using text analysis to assess the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on rural healthcare providers

Intro to the Special Issue: Rural Research in the Time of Covid

Prior research has demonstrated that rural communities in the US often have fewer medical, social, and educational resources when compared to urban hubs (Hartley, 2004; Bard, Gardener, & Wieland 2006). Catastrophic and unprecedent events can greatly exacerbate such inequalities leading to increased mortality rates and straining already overburdened educational and social systems. For example, infrastructure challenges and disinvestments such as lack of broadband in rural communities can raise roadblocks to students who have to rely on remote online instruction and puts pressure on school systems to maintain in-person classes (Patrick et al., 2021). Such issues can also exacerbate isolation as online communication rapidly becomes central to work, education, and commerce. At the same time, rural communities remain key components of essential agricultural supply chains, feeding the nation despite new challenges introduced by pandemic conditions.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, our contributors have made strides in examining how the experiences of the last two years can teach us valuable lessons about rural communities and lead to better policies designed for rural populations. The articles included in this issue creatively confront the challenges of data collection during the past two years while still acknowledging the human face of the pandemic experience. We are excited to showcase these articles in serial release throughout the year of 2022. Holding true to our interdisciplinary mission, these articles range from the field of health to education and social sciences.

This special issue begins with a timely article reporting on healthcare worker emotional states before and during COVID. The toll of the pandemic is not uniform, with mortality rates among non-metropolitan communities well exceeding those of metropolitan communities (Ulrich & Mueller 2022). With a near 20% loss of healthcare workers reported (Galvin 2021), the strain of the pandemic on healthcare employees is evident throughout the US. This article provides an important first-step toward understanding the unique experiences of rural healthcare workers during the pandemic, while also revealing how a sense of reward may contribute to resiliency among these truly essential workers.


Bard, J., Gardener, C., & Wieland, R. (2006). National Rural Education Association report rural school consolidation: History, research summary, conclusions, and recommendations. The Rural Educator, 27(2), 40-48.

Galvin, Gaby. Oct. 2021. Nearly 1 in 5 Health Care Workers Have Quit Their Jobs During the Pandemic. Morning Consult. https://morningconsult.com/2021/10/04/health-care-workers-series-part-2-workforce/

Hartley, D. (2004). Rural Health Disparities, Population Health, and Rural Culture. American Journal of Public Health, 94(10), 1675–1678.

Patrick, S. K., Grissom, J. A., Woods, S. C., & Newsome, U. W. (2021). Broadband Access, District Policy, and Student Opportunities for Remote Learning During COVID-19 School Closures. AERA Open, 7(1), 1-22.

Ullrich, F. & K. Mueller. Jan. 2022. COVID-19 Cases and Deaths, Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Counties Over Time (update). Brief #2020-9. RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis: https://rupri.public-health.uiowa.edu/