Nursing shortage not felt locally

MCT Illustration

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Eastern New Mexico health care officials said the region is not as impacted by a state-wide nursing shortage because of the availability of new nurses from local colleges.

A University of New Mexico study revealed the state is about to lose 5,000 nurses it might not be able to replace, according to state health care officials.

The report indicates a majority of licensed nurses aged 40 years old and younger are leaving the workforce as about 5,000 get ready to retire.

“(The nursing shortage) impacts access to health care and it impacts the quality of health care,” said Allison Kozeliski, executive director of the New Mexico Board of Nursing.

Plains Regional Medical Center Nursing Director Liz Crouch said the hospital has had success recruiting nurses from Clovis Community College and Eastern New Mexico University.

Roosevelt General Hospital Director of Patient Care Gayle Richerson said the hospital “grows its own nurses,” meaning employees in other departments take nursing courses at ENMU and CCC and work as nurses at the hospital when they finish their studies.

“We do what we can to help them go to school,” she said. “They, in return, continue as our employees. It’s always a tight situation, but we have been very blessed to have employees that are very engaged in our facility.”

CCC Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness David Caffey said in the last year the college awarded 52 associate degrees for registered nurses and 61 certificates of completion for licensed practitioner nurses.

He said the college averages about 40 registered nurse associate degrees and about 60 licensed practitioner certificates annually.

He said the college also supplies nurses to Lubbock and Amarillo.

New Mexico First, a non-profit public policy group, scheduled a series of town hall meetings this month with local health care and education officials to develop recommendations to address the shortage at a community level.

The meeting in Clovis was held July 18 for health care officials in eastern New Mexico.

Caffey, who attended the forum, said the group recommended incentive programs, such as loan forgiveness and repayment, and Medicare reimbursement to encourage nurses to stay in the state and in the field.

A majority of the recommendations were based on recruiting more nursing faculty and increasing funding for nursing education, according to Richerson.

“It gives us access to the information we need and the resources that we need so people in the remote areas have the same ability to receive the same health care as people in urban areas,” she said.