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Building The Next Generation Of Healthcare Professionals In New Mexico


New Mexico has faced a healthcare professional shortage in the past few years. Dr. Alexa Doig, Director of New Mexico State University’s School of Nursing, says recruiting faculty for the local nursing program is crucial.

“Our ability to grow is really dependent on our ability to recruit qualified nurse faculty, and to secure clinical placement in the hospitals and community-based health agencies. In addition to having a nursing shortage regionally, in the state, and nationally, there’s also a critical nursing faculty shortage on all these levels, so it makes recruiting to NMSU and other nursing programs in the region very challenging,” said Doig.

How bad is the nursing shortage?  New Mexico hospitals currently have about 6,300 monthly job postings for registered nurses.  So, there are many job opportunities.  And…opportunities for training.  Students in NMSU’s School of Nursing are able to help short-staffed local healthcare professionals while receiving hands-on experience in clinical rotations.

“We appreciate our healthcare partners that are willing to have our nurse trainees in their healthcare settings. They work alongside nurses and other healthcare workers. While they are there and being trained, I hear from our healthcare agencies that the students contribute and provide patient care, they assist with the nurses and other healthcare workers in the facilities. I feel that our students are contributing, to some degree, to the workforce even though they are still training,” said Doig.

New Mexico Universities offer a lot more than just training for students and help with staff shortages.  Along with clinical rotations, the University of New Mexico’s College of Nursing also provides extensive research for hospitals.  Dean Christine Kasper says it’s an important effort.

“We return our contributions by offering support for work that might be done at those hospitals such as evidence-based practice and research support. These are some of the areas of expertise that our faculty have that may not be available for the hospital. Wherever we can be a help to the community, we help,” said Kasper.

Nursing shortages are most severe in the state’s less populated counties. Dean Kasper says UNM Nursing students are required to work in rural clinical rotations.

“We make sure that all the students have a mandatory rural rotation, so they’re exposed to the great rurality of the state. We have them rotate with vulnerable populations and disadvantaged communities. I think that whole package is important to make sure that they’re at the cutting edge and getting the best scientific based education as possible,” said Kasper.

In 2020, NMSU’s School of Nursing saw 80% of its graduates apply for Registered Nurse Licensure in New Mexico, meaning that those graduates would most likely stay and work in New Mexico hospitals.

Over the past 5 years, UNM’s College of Nursing has seen 85% of its graduates stay in the state after graduation.

Dean Kasper credits this statistic to UNM’s healthcare partners within the state.

“The intensity and specificity of healthcare is changing very fast, so we make every effort to partner with the medical center in our system and other healthcare centers around the state to really expose the students to that increased intensity. Keeping nurses in nursing, over the long term often depends on the exposures they’ve had. They don’t realize how intense it is,” said Kasper.

By graduating more nurses, UNM and NMSU also help the state’s economy.

New Mexico lags far behind the national median household income.

But, the nursing field is a bright spot for the state. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that salaries for New Mexico nurses rank 21st in the nation.

And the average salary for a registered nurse is more than $73,000.

Over 17 thousand nurses are employed in New Mexico.