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Federal funds aim to grow NM’s nursing workforce as shortage persists

The University of New Mexico's College of Nursing.
Courtesy University of New Mexico
The University of New Mexico's College of Nursing.

While the national nursing shortage may be easing, vacancies still haven’t returned to pre-pandemic numbers, according to a study from Nursing Solutions Inc. In New Mexico,the most recent data showed 9,000 RN job postings in the state as of last summer. The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center has announced it is set to receive millions in federal funds to address the gap, particularly in rural areas.

UNM will receive $650,000 this year from the federal Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW) Program. The four-year Health Resources and Services Administration grant could bring a total of $2.6 million overall to grow the number of nurses in the state, depending on the university's performance and the availability of funds.

New Mexico is in need of over 5,800 more RNs to meet the national benchmark, according to an October report from the New Mexico Health Care Workforce Committee.

UNM Health Sciences Center said in a statement it will focus the federal funds on giving nursing students experience in rural clinics.

The grant was awarded to College of Nursing Assistant Professor Christine Cogil.

“Until a nursing student has sat with a patient faced with cultural and community-based barriers, they will never truly be able to see things from the patient’s perspective,” she said.

She said the hope is that, following these rotations, students will, “return as educated nurses to treat those populations in their career.”

New Mexico’s congressional delegation announced the nurse education funds at the same time as another federal HRSA grant meant to improve developmental outcomes for the state’s youngest patients at community health centers. The funding would bolster screenings and follow-up care for patients 5 years old and younger.

The $400,000 from the Health Center Program will also aim to improve care in rural communities, with half of it awarded to the Ben Archer Health Center in Hatch.

“We must continue to invest in our health care system – especially in rural communities like Hatch – so that New Mexicans have access to their health care needs no matter where they live,” said U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez in a statement.

Presbyterian Medical Services in Santa Fe is the other recipient.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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