The development of a comprehensive community health center in a rural community

Jill N. Peltzer (School of Nursing, University of Kansas, Kansas City, Kansas, USA)
Cynthia S. Teel (School of Nursing, University of Kansas, Kansas City, Kansas, USA)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Publication date: 27 January 2012



This paper seeks to identify strategies that promote the development and sustainability of a successful comprehensive community health center located in a rural Mid‐western state.


The authors used a qualitative case study methodology, using a purposive sample of 15 employees and board members of a rural community health center. Semi‐structured interviews were conducted, transcribed, and analyzed for common themes and sub‐themes that would describe the strategies used to develop and sustain the successful center.


Leading with Consideration was identified as the dominant theme in the interviews, field notes and archival data. Four sub‐themes: Living the Mission, Fostering Individual Growth, Building a Community, and Encouraging Innovation, emerged from the narratives. Leadership was the most important theme that emerged from the data, resulting in a workforce culture that upholds the mission of the center, leadership that seeks to inspire the growth of both employees and clients. As a result, there is a sense of community and innovative health care endeavours that have created a sustainable holistic health care model.

Research limitations/implications

The themes that emerged from the narratives of the participants may not be transferable to other community health centers. The case selected for this study was located in a rural, primarily Caucasian setting, so the findings may not be transferable to urban or more racially diverse settings.

Practical implications

Transformational leadership may be an important concept for safety net clinics to promote a positive work environment that continually addresses the important mission of the organization, promotes retention of staff, and promotes staff to provide quality, continuity of care to clients to promote their health. Within current safety net organizations, the findings from this research may affirm leaders' servant leadership styles and how they positively impact their organization. Healthy work environments guided by transformational leaders promote retention of quality health care professionals, who in turn, provide quality care in medically underserved communities.


This study is one of the first qualitative studies to describe concepts that support the development of a successful, sustainable community health center.



Peltzer, J. and Teel, C. (2012), "The development of a comprehensive community health center in a rural community", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 52-61.

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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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