By Kayleen Schenk

Nurse Practitioner Week 2023: Celebrating NPs and their impact on communities

This week marks Nurse Practitioner Week 2023; an opportunity to celebrate all that nurse practitioners do for their patients, students and communities.

The University of New Mexico College of Nursing not only celebrates nurse practitioners, they support and educate them, ensuring the future of nursing is prepared to meet the needs of diverse communities in various specialties across the lifespan. Focused on rural and underserved health care, nurses educated at the College are prepared to serve all New Mexicans 

“The nurse practitioner is an essential member of the health care system, especially here in New Mexico. NPs have full prescriptive authority in our state. They are using their skills and knowledge to make critical care decisions and impact people in big ways,” says UNM College of Nursing Interim Dean Carolyn Montoya, PhD, RN, CPNP.  “I encourage everyone to celebrate NPs – not just this week – but all year.”

In honor of Nurse Practitioner Week 2023, below are three heartfelt and impressive profiles on an UNM nurse practitioner, alumna, and a current UNM NP student.


UNM College of Nursing Alumna Kimberly Hart, CPNP-PC, always knew she wanted to work with children. It’s what inspired her to become a nurse practitioner. She started in Pediatric Emergency Medicine and it was her love of connecting with families that took her into Primary Care. She now works in private practice.

“Pediatrics is more than helping children. I get to help entire families navigate the difficulties of raising healthy children. We are very underserved in New Mexico, especially our kids, so nurse practitioners have to be creative when offering services to families, and I love doing it,” says Hart.

When asked about her most impactful patient, she simply gestured in a 360-degree motion around her desk; tears in her eyes. Hand-drawn pictures with the caption, “Thank You Miss Kim,” graduation announcements, and dozens of other drawings from her patients are pinned up around her work station.

Hart says, “I don’t have enough words to explain why I am a nurse. This (the kind words from patients) are my, “why.” I care about these kids. I care about their families. And I am grateful to the UNM Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program every day for preparing me for this rewarding career. The holistic and rural-driven curriculum prepares you for the big picture of providing care.”



Current College of Nursing Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program student Breawnna Wunder, BSN, RN, is an adventurous and caring soul. She has spent the past decade as a critical care registered nurse in hospital and clinical settings, serving during the COVID pandemic in a hospital in Taos, NM. Inspired by her expiriences during the pandemic, she is returning to school to persue a new specialty.

“Even though the world was experiencing a pandemic that affected the physical form in drastic ways, I could see the mental strain it had on my patients and on communities as a whole. Seeing people struggle mentally throughout the pandemic is what inspired me to pursue psychiatric mental health at UNM,” Wunder says.

Her love of the outdoors and rural communities is what brought her to New Mexico from her home state of Minnesota. As an Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW) grant awarded student, she gets the opportunity to perform clinical rotations in rural and underserved communities.

Wunder says, “my favorite nursing experience has been serving the people of the Zuni Pueblo. I knew I was there in a healing capacity, but was blown away by just how much I learned about healing from the community. That rotation changed my life.  I can’t wait to keep growing as a nurse and a healer. New Mexico is a wonderful and challenging place to be a health care provider. I love it here.”



UNM Hospital Nurse Practitioner Krystle D. Apodaca, DNP, FNP-BC, FHM, has been in nursing for 13 years. From serving metropolitan areas like Albuquerque to rural communities like Hatch, NM, she has done it all.

“My biggest passions are harm reduction and medication assistance therapy for substance use disorder. These areas are very important for New Mexico. As a nurse I know I have some agency in educating patients on their wellbeing and taking charge of their health. I meet people where they are at and go from there,” says Apodaca.

The most impactful experience she has had in nursing thus far has been treating a gentlemen in Hatch who was diagnosed with advanced heart failure. Being far from any specialists, and having a patient who was uninsured caused her to rally. She called colleagues in cardiology from around New Mexico to develop a sustainable treatment plan for the patient, despite his circumstances.

Apodaca says, “the collaboration skills nurses in New Mexico develop is extraordinary and can make a life-saving difference for a patient.”

As an experienced nurse practitioner, she has much advice for the next generation of nurses.

She shares, “find your ‘why’ as soon as you can. Knowing why you want to be a nurse will fuel you on the good days and anchor you on the bad. Things will get tough at times, and it is important to remember why you want to treat and serve when they do.

Categories: College of Nursing, Community Engagement, News You Can Use, Top Stories