UNM nursing graduates spark hope for state’s health care system

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New Mexico’s health care system will get a much-needed boost in the next few months, as UNM Nursing School students graduate.

The UNM College of Nursing supplies 60% of all nurses across New Mexico. However, the need for more isn’t going anywhere, and the good news is there are students eager to fill the local need.

"The shortages and everything came up, and then I was like ‘yep I’m gonna go do it. They need me,’" said Cravens.

The pandemic gave Angela Cravens the push she needed to make a change. After more than 10 years of working in microbiology, she enrolled in UNM’s nursing program.

"We’re always gonna need nurses. I mean, people are always gonna have to have care as all the medical advances continue and we live longer and longer, we’re gonna need nurses even more than ever before," Cravens said.

And she’s far from the only one who has recognized their importance. Enrollment numbers show a steady rise over the past three years, 980 students enrolled in the Fall of 2019, compared to 1,016 students who started this past Fall.

"For me personally, it gives me a good feeling to know I’m making a difference and contributing to the community," said Cravens.

The Dean of the College of Nursing, Christine Kasper underlines the fact that the local community directly benefits from these students. 95% percent of graduates stay in New Mexico.

"Nurses get pulled into all sorts of things– legal fields, business, running hospitals, so we have to have that full compliment to really serve all the healthcare needs in the state,” said Kasper. "We build into the program rotations in underserved areas, rotations across the state in rural health."

And data shows that after those rotations– they tend to stay.

"They’re in many ways encouraged because they really see the importance of nursing and how the system doesn’t run without them," Kasper said.

Kasper says UNM and New Mexico State are largely responsible for creating nursing faculty too.

"Those with the master’s degrees in education and the advanced practice nurses who then serve to move across the state, and serve as faculty at the community colleges as well as the other state universities," she said.

They fulfill a dedication to serve the state in more ways than one.

"The hospitals wouldn’t run without nurses at all. We would have no healthcare system if we didn’t have enough nurses, so I hope more people will go into the field," said Cravens.

UNM has a new accelerated RN program in the works, designed for people with a bachelor’s degree in another field. That program will start in the Fall of 2023.