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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: September 22, 2003
Volume 39, Number 5

College of Nursing to recruit rural nurses to Web program

By Lynn Melton

Faculty in the UNM College of Nursing will use a $650,000 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to recruit nurses from throughout New Mexico to advance their educations via the Web and help them stick with the program until they get their degrees.

“Having to travel to Albuquerque for more education is bad for the nurses throughout the state and the facilities they work in,” said Geoff Shuster, associate professor in the UNM College of Nursing. “The facilities lose the expertise of these nurses, and the nurses lose income and time with their families.

“It is important for New Mexico and the University of New Mexico to be able to offer programs that ‘educate in place,’ “ Shuster said.

UNM’s Web program offers a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) curriculum tailored to registered nurses (RNs) who already earned their associate degrees at local community colleges. Shuster and Gloria Birkholz, another UNM College of Nursing professor, will recruit them to the “RN to BSN” program through advertising, letters, face-to-face meetings in rural communities, an 800 telephone line and a website.

UNM also offers a complete Web-based master’s of science in nursing (MSN) program that can be accelerated with courses in the RN-BSN program.

The professors will help the students stick with the program by regularly seeking feedback about what works and what doesn’t, and revising the program accordingly.

The RN to BSN program focuses on critical thinking, leadership, management, community health and public policy – skills that enhance a nurse’s competence and are ideal to teach via the Web, Shuster said. More highly-educated nurses are needed in today’s increasingly complex healthcare settings, he added.

Nurses with BSN and MSN degrees also are able to take leadership positions within their organizations, Birkholz said, and nurses with MSN degrees are able to fill the need for faculty at the community colleges that provide Associate Degree nursing education and want to increase the number of students they graduate.

A group of industry representatives studying the state’s nursing shortage recently concluded that to begin to solve the shortage, New Mexico must double the number of students who graduate from the state’s nursing schools each year.

Currently about 11 percent, the shortage could reach 57 percent by the year 2025 if nothing is done to address it, according to projections from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

While some private institutions have offered similar degrees via the Web, Shuster and Birkholz hope to attract students who might have found those programs too expensive. UNM’s online web based program costs the same as the courses on-campus in Albuquerque, plus a technical fee per course.

 For more information about the UNM College of Nursing, visit http://hsc.unm.edu/consg/ or call 1-800-690-0934.