New Mexico State University will establish two new endowed faculty positions in nursing programs at the Las Cruces campus and Doña Ana Community College as part of a statewide effort to address the shortage of nurses across New Mexico.
Earlier this year, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law the 2023 state budget that included $30 million to endow nursing faculty positions at universities and colleges across the state to help expand the nursing workforce. The NMSU School of Nursing and the DACC Nursing Program were each awarded $2.5 million to create new faculty positions.
The NMSU School of Nursing will establish a new faculty role overseeing student success. The assistant director of student success will develop initiatives and coordinate programs to improve undergraduate student retention, increase graduation rates and help graduates pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam on their first attempt.
“We’re trying to increase retention graduation and licensing exam pass rates, so we can graduate more nurses faster,” said Alexa Doig, director of the NMSU School of Nursing. “Increasing enrollment in nursing programs is one way to address the nursing shortage. However, it’s equally important to ensure nursing students are successful in our Bachelor of Nursing program and on the NCLEX-RN licensure exam.”
In addition to teaching and overseeing student success, the new faculty member will lead a new program called SON Cares, partly funded by a $1.3 million grant from the New Mexico Higher Education Department. The program has a multipronged approach to support pre-nursing and nursing students from diverse backgrounds, including first-generation college students and underrepresented minorities.
Meanwhile, the DACC Nursing Program will create a new faculty role that will work closely with schools and communities throughout southern Doña Ana County to build a pipeline to DACC.
“This funding will allow us to have dedicated resources that will help us expand nursing education opportunities to southern Doña Ana County. Residents in this growing area deserve access to educational opportunities near their homes,” said Josie Carmona, dean of DACC’s Health Sciences division. “Our new faculty coordinator will work with Gadsden and Santa Theresa high schools to develop a pipeline of nursing program applicants and build community relationships with the residents of Sunland Park, Anthony and Chaparral.”
DACC also received $995,600 in funding from the New Mexico Higher Education Department to expand the nursing program to its center in Sunland Park. As part of DACC’s Nursing Career Ladder Program, the center will offer instruction to students interested in obtaining licensed practical nurse certificates or registered nurse degrees.
“These funds will go to support mentoring, tutoring, transportation assistance and incentives for passing the NCLEX licensure exam and entering the workforce as quickly as possible to meet the growing demands on the health care system,” Carmona said.
At NMSU’s Las Cruces campus, enrollment in the School of Nursing has increased by 35% over the past three years, Doig said. But the school was unable to enroll more students this academic year, she said, because of limitations in laboratory space and clinical sites. Nursing faculty shortages at the state and national levels also played a factor, she added.
Doig said the school will be able to accommodate more students if New Mexico voters approve General Obligation Bond 3 on the November ballot, which includes $2 million to renovate and expand the school’s Nursing Skills and Simulation Center.
She said the $1.3 million grant from the state Higher Education Department will also help the school sustain and eventually increase enrollment in the undergraduate program.
“Since we cannot further increase enrollment until our lab remodel is complete, our priority focus for the current fiscal year is on student success for all 400-plus students in the program,” she said.
Doig estimates that 70% to 80% of NMSU nursing graduates obtain their registered nurse licenses to practice in New Mexico, adding a significant number of nurses to the state’s workforce each year.