Background Organized infection control (IC) interventions have been successful in reducing the acquisition of hospital-associated infections. Rural community hospitals, although contributing significantly to the US health care system, have rarely been assessed regarding the nature and quality of their IC programs. Methods A sample of 77 small rural hospitals in Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and eastern Washington completed a written survey in 2000 regarding IC staffing, infrastructure support, surveillance of nosocomial infections, and IC policies and practices. Results Almost all hospitals (65 of 67, 97%) had one infection control practitioner (ICP), and 29 of 61 hospitals (47.5%) reported a designated physician with IC oversight. Most ICPs (62 of 64, 96.9%) were also employed for other activities outside of IC. The median number of ICP hours per week for IC activities was 10 (1-40), equating to a median of 1.56 (0.30-21.9) full-time ICPs per 250 hospital beds. Most hospitals performed total house surveillance for nosocomial infections (66 of 73, 90.4%) utilizing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definitions (69 of 74, 93.2%). Most also monitored employee bloodborne exposures (69 of 73, 94.5%). All hospitals had a written bloodborne pathogen exposure plan and isolation policies. CDC guidelines were typically followed when developing IC policies. Access to medical literature and online resources appeared to be limited for many ICPs. Conclusions Most rural hospitals surveyed have expended reasonable resources to develop IC programs that are patterned after those seen in larger hospitals and conform to recommendations of consensus expert panels. Given these hospitals' small patient census, short length of stay, and low infection rates, further studies are needed to evaluate necessary components of effective IC programs in these settings that efficiently utilize limited resources without compromising patient care.