By Marlena E. Bermel

Minding the Gap in Rural Health Care

Grant Paves the Way for New Mexico Military Veterans to Become Nurses

The University of New Mexico College of Nursing is proud to count military veterans and active duty personnel among its student population. Now, thanks to a three-year $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, the College will be actively recruiting veterans for its undergraduate ranks.

The Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention - Veterans Nurses in Primary Care Training Program grant will focus on educating veterans as RNs with bachelor of science in nursing degrees, prepared to work in primary care settings in rural areas of the state.

It's no secret that there is a nursing shortage across the country, especially in rural primary care settings. Many military veterans live in these rural communities and are a perfect fit to help meet the shortage. Currently, 3,361 RNs would be required to meet the national benchmark for adequate distribution across New Mexico's 33 counties. In McKinley County alone, 190 nurses are needed.

"This grant is truly a collaborative effort with faculty, staff and clinical partners," says Judy Liesveld, PhD, Associate Dean for Education and Innovation. "We are excited to continue development of our veteran-centric undergraduate program and to support veterans to have nursing careers in rural primary care nursing sites."

In partnership with the New Mexico Veterans Affairs Heath Care System, College of Nursing veteran students will receive clinical education within Veterans Affairs primary care clinics, including community-based clinics. There are 12 such clinics across New Mexico, many based in rural settings.

Grant funding will also provide students with stipends for travel and lodging to gain clinical experiences in the VA's Patient-Aligned Care Teams clinics. The New Mexico Primary Care Association is also collaborating with the College to develop primary care nursing throughout the state.

The grant will also provide funding for the College of Nursing to provide continuing professional development sessions for faculty and practicing RNs aimed at developing primary care expertise to address the unique needs of veterans. UNM's TeleECHO program will also play a role in disseminating primary care content throughout New Mexico.