As graduation approaches, nursing might just be in the cards for many students, and with a 2017 WalletHub study, they may have even more of a reason to pursue it.

Out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, New Mexico was ranked No. 2 for best state to be a nurse in, according to the study.

The report was developed by WalletHub’s research team, in conjunction with academic experts in the field who chose the most relevant metrics, said Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub Analyst.

The data used to create the rankings was aggregated from reputable sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Council for Community and Economic Research, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and many more, Gonzalez said.

One unusual part of the study that stood out was that while nursing opportunities in New Mexico are abundant, more than 43 percent of licensed nursing professionals are not actually working in the nursing field right now, she said.

“That could speak to quality of life issues while being a nurse in the state,” she said.

New Mexico ranked lowest in Share of Best Nursing Homes, with merely 2.67 percent of the total listed nursing homes awarded five stars, Gonzalez said.

The state did best in Presence of Nursing Licensure Compact Law, tying for first, because current legislation allows nurses to practice in their home state and other participating states as well, she said.

Carolyn Montoya, interim dean for the College of Nursing at the University of New Mexico, said the study was highly encouraging.

The College of Nursing offers a pre-liscense BSM degree, master’s degrees and doctoral degrees in nursing, Montoya said. This makes the college one of the primary providers of bachelor prepared nurses in the state and also advanced practice nursing — including nurse practitioners and nurse midwives.

“Another very favorable aspect to being an advanced practice nurse (or) being a nurse practitioner or midwife in our state is our board of nursing — our laws allow for full-scope practice and full-prescriptive authority,” Montoya said.

Nurse practitioners in New Mexico can write prescriptions, and since they have full-scope practices, if they wish, they can open up their own practice, which many nurse practitioners have done, she said.

Montoya noted that the study weighed some of these things more heavily than others but said she thinks the creators of the study did pretty well.

UNM’s nursing program provides online programs, so when potential students from other states see this ranking it makes them more likely to enroll, particularly in one of the online programs and then come and work in New Mexico, Montoya said.

The University’s nursing program has a commitment to quality education, she said.

“If you graduate from one of our programs, you can be assured that you will be extremely well-prepared to enter the nursing workforce,” Montoya said. “We have (an) absolutely great quality of education, excellent faculty and excellent staff.”

The decision she made to become a nurse is the best decision Montoya ever made in her life, she said.

“It is an incredibly rewarding career — it offers you the opportunity to do a wide variety in a long period of time,” Montoya said. “You don’t stay in just one area. You have so many areas you can go into, and the opportunity to make a difference in somebody’s (life) is so incredible — and you will always have a job.”

A 2016 graduate of the UNM nursing program, Nicholas Byers, works in General Pediatrics at the University of New Mexico Hospital.

As an individual in the nursing field, Byres said he was a little surprised when he heard of New Mexico’s high ranking but acknowledged that as a rural state, New Mexico’s demand for nurses is high, which contributed to the high ranking.

Despite his initial surprise, Byres agreed with the ranking the state received, as New Mexico is an extraordinarily diverse and cultured state with lots of opportunities for nurses, he said.

He said one huge benefit of going to UNM for nursing was the clinical experience he gained.

“The program is very fortunate to have UNMH — a Level I trauma center — right there,” Byres said.

The success of nurses in New Mexico who received their degrees from UNM did not come easy.

“The program is extremely challenging,” Byres said. “My experience with it had its ups and downs, but in the end the challenges I faced in the program is what (makes) me a good nurse today.”

One experience that stood out to Byres when he was in the program was when he traveled to the Navajo Nation for a community health clinical, he said.

“I got to spend two weeks there traveling to people’s homes and helping out population health needs,” Byres said. “I was immersed in the cultural experience of the Navajo people and got a first-hand experience on what life is like there — it was very humbling and something I will never forget.”

Byres said he plans on staying in New Mexico.

“I am currently working as a nurse, and I love it very much,” he said.

Byres’ advice to students looking to pursue a degree from the UNM nursing program is to first understand that the program is very challenging and competitive, he said.

“Stick with it, grow and learn from your experiences, and don’t give up,” Byres said.

Nichole Harwood is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She primarily covers alumni and art features. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @Nolidoli1.