Nursing Schools Almanac recently ranked UNM’s College of Nursing among the very best in the region.

Hundreds of nursing schools in the Southwest were ranked by the online publication and, of the schools considered, UNM secured 15th place as the website praised its "innovative education opportunities."

Specifically, UNM outscored St. David’s School of Nursing at Texas State University, Midwestern University’s College of Health Sciences and the University of Texas El Paso.

Nursing Schools Almanac's rank system is based on an institution’s academic prestige and perceived value, such as the ability for a graduate to repay their student loans, according to the site.

The schools were also judged in breadth and depth of nursing programs offered, as well as student success and a graduate’s ability to pass national licensure exams.

Graduates with a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree at UNM have had an 84 percent pass rate in the National Council Licensure Examination since 2009, including an 87 percent pass rate last year. Nursing Schools Almanac also praised UNM’s ability to award degrees in rural communities.

UNM College of Nursing Dean Nancy Ridenour said the University's ambitions are to increase the number of BSN and doctoral graduates in the state, and increase the number of faculty, nurse practitioners and midwives. She said a higher output will ultimately help grow UNM’s faculty and lead to improvement in New Mexico’s healthcare system.

The New Mexico Nursing Education Consortium has developed the pathway for UNM to expand the number of bachelor nursing degrees offered in the state exponentially, Ridenour said.

NMNEC is a a collaborative of New Mexico’s state nursing schools, including the UNM and NMSU main campuses, in alliance with branch campuses, community colleges and other universities throughout the state.

NMNEC developed a statewide common curriculum for the BSN and associate (ADN) degrees in nursing, Ridenour said. There are seven community colleges now teaching the NMNEC BSN curriculum, including CNM, Santa Fe Community College and Clovis Community College.

UNM Taos will implement the curriculum this fall, and eventually there will be 18 New Mexico nursing programs teaching the common curriculum providing the means for seamless transfer between schools.

Before NMNEC, students could obtain the BSN only on UNM and NMSU campuses. NMNEC provides the opportunity to obtain the BSN on community college campuses for future students.

Ridenour said it is critical for New Mexico to have nurse practitioners and midwives in rural areas, as students are more inclined to stay in rural areas if they can obtain a degree near home.

“What we found is sometimes if students leave home, they stay in Albuquerque or Las Cruces and work. They don’t go back home,” she said. “If we can educate a bachelor’s nurse in Hobbs, for example... they are much more likely to stay there and work, which is critically important.”

New Mexico has a shortage of nurses in both rural and urban communities, Ridenour said. Furthermore, there is an increasing demand for nurses with bachelor degrees.

Thus, expanding UNM’s nursing student base and the number of BSN, ADN, Ph.D. and DNP graduates in the state is crucial for the New Mexican healthcare system, she said. The number of NMNEC nursing students is rising exponentially, and the number of bachelor in nursing students has almost doubled already.

“The ultimate goal is to increase the health of New Mexicans, so having more nurses with bachelors and graduate degrees nurses will impact the health of New Mexico," Ridenour said.

UNM’s focus is not just on increasing the number of nurses in the state but also increasing the quality of degree programs.

“We are developing a research program to look at the factors that really improve our state’s health, and that’s where Ph.D. and DNP students are important,” said Ridenour.