New Mexico School Expands Pre-Licensure BSN Program

A New Mexico university is expanding its pre-licensure nursing program to better prepare students for careers in the field.

Western New Mexico University, based in Silver City, announced in March that it would be implementing changes to grow its pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, which the school initially launched in the fall of 2015. Currently, the school offers both an associate’s and bachelor’s pre-licensure program. The new changes are designed to graduate more nurses at the bachelor’s level.

“Large cities and major hospitals are not hiring associate degree prepared nurses,” said John Scarbrough, School of Nursing Associate Dean, in a statement on the WNMU site. “With a bachelor’s degree you can work anywhere.”

The program, which emphasizes rural health, is adding a semester of coursework as part of the program’s expansion. The program’s licensure test, however, will stay the same.

Scarbrough said the motivation for the program’s changes was twofold. Nurses are now carrying more of the workload when treating patients, so the program’s modifications will help nurses practice at the highest education levels afforded the school. This improved preparation would also bolster the community’s healthcare treatment.

“This shift in direction will help the community because the community will have better prepared nurses taking care of them,” said Scarbrough.

As of March, WNMU is one of only three New Mexico-supported educational institutions where aspiring nurses can obtain the pre-licensure Baccalaureate in Nursing (BSN). The BSN program was developed by the New Mexico Nursing Education Consortium (NMNEC), which was launched in the fall of 2009 to produce increasing numbers of BSN graduates in the state.

New Mexico has been taking active steps to improve nursing education in the state. In April of 2015, governor Susana Martinez signed two bills that help nurses receive financial aid in pursuit of advanced degrees. Her decision, she said, was influenced by the state’s aging nursing population. Older nurses who receive financial support to achieve advanced degrees can become instructors at the university level, allowing them to teach the next generation of New Mexico nurses.