I'm sorry you are seeing this kind of behavior.
I'd report to your clinical instructor. She is the official liaison between you students and the facility and should be your first line of defense. The unit manager would probably be more inclined to take the complaints seriously coming from her rather than a student just because she's a person in authority and because her concern adds validation to your report.
You can also respond on the spot by saying things like, "Excuse me?" accompanied by a wide-eyed stare. Or say, "I didn't know people still thought stuff like that." Often, people shoot their mouths off because they assume that everyone shares their distorted view, especially if no one else speaks up and calls them on their rudeness.
Just one little caution. You said something about the hospital being in a small town as if that inevitably leads to a small-minded citizenry. It might, but there are many people in and from small towns who do know better. Prejudice is prejudice, no matter what flavor it comes in.
Last edit by rn/writer on Nov 3, '09