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New Mexico State University

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NMSU Nursing Department celebrates successes during National Nurses Week

New Mexico State University's Department of Nursing has much to celebrate during National Nurses Week May 6-12.

In celebration of Nurses Week, three New Mexico State University nursing students engaged President Michael Martin, left, and Provost William Flores, second from right, in a demonstration a nursing lab on campus. The students Todd Stuve, second from left, Marcus Colker, center, and Carla Urueta, right, will receive bachelor's degrees May 7. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

rsing students increased their first-time pass rates to 96 percent in December 2004 on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), a national registered nurse qualifying exam. The national first-time pass rate average in 2004 was 85.3 percent.

In the past two years, the department has grown from an average of 200 students to more than 300 students this spring and on May 7 the nursing department will graduate the largest class of graduate students in its history.

"This is a wonderful program providing professionals of high need to New Mexico," said NMSU President Michael Martin.

In 2001, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that more than one million new nurses will be needed by the year 2010. New Mexico is no different, according to NMSU nursing department head Mary Hoke, who said the state needs to more than double its annual output of qualified nurses to keep pace with the region's health care demands.

The nursing department will kick off Nurses Week at 2 p.m. Friday, May 6, with its recognition ceremony for graduates in the Physical Science Laboratory Auditorium. The ceremony will honor 23 Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates, 12 registered nurses who have returned to obtain bachelor's degrees and 10 registered nurses who will receive Master of Science in Nursing degrees.

"We are serving more students and making sure they leave here ready to assume responsible leadership roles in providing nursing care to our region," Hoke said.

NMSU student Marcus Colker will receive his Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree May 7 and will start his job at Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso on May 9.

"The NMSU program has really provided me with vast clinical experiences that have increased my independence and confidence," Colker said.

NMSU student Todd Stuve, who also will get his bachelor's degree May 7, agreed that the NMSU nursing department's field training requirements were a benefit to his preparedness.

"Being in the field allowed us to follow through with what we learned in text books," Stuve said.

Carla Urueta, who also will receive her bachelor's May 7, said the culturally competent and holistic approach to patient care that she learned in her course work will serve her well when she begins work in June at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque.

"A nurse's job is to care for all of a patient's needs as well as the needs of the patient's family and be sensitive to the beliefs of each individual," Urueta said. "I'm glad I chose nursing; I know it will be personally rewarding."

Three NMSU nursing faculty will be participating in their own graduation ceremony May 7 in Houston. Wanda Borges, Leslie Robbins and Jacquelyn Williams will receive Doctor of Science in Nursing degrees from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center. Borges also will be recognized with an award for Best Doctoral Dissertation in the School of Nursing. Hoke said the department now has 11 tenured or tenure-track faculty with doctorates.

Traditionally, National Nurses Week is devoted to highlighting the diverse ways in which registered nurses are working to improve health care. The NMSU nursing department celebrates diversity year-round in its culturally competent curriculum - the department has established a concentrated focus on health disparities and is working to build its capacity for health disparities research, Hoke said.

The NMSU nursing department's Southwest Partnership Center (SWPC) is one of eight federally funded centers dedicated to expanding the preparation of nurses and nurse scientists from minority populations and on expanding research aimed at improving health and health care. The center was established in 2002 with a five-year $1.5 million National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) grant in partnership with the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing.

Pilot research studies funded through the center have involved rural Mexican-American women and have focused on depression, healthy eating, and family and home concerns. Nine NMSU nursing faculty recently made presentations about this research at the Western Institute of Nursing Research's 38th Annual Communicating Nursing Research Conference.

The NMSU nursing department also added to its program opportunities this past year with two more than $1 million grants from the Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The HRSA grants are funding the MIND Project and the Roadrunner Project. The MIND Project is using distance education tools to admit, retain and graduate more than 30 students with graduate degrees in nursing, either as a psychiatric mental health clinical nurse specialist or as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. The Roadrunner Project: A Fast Track to Nursing will allow 48 students to obtain nursing degrees on the fast track during a three-year period. By taking larger class loads per semester and attending school year round, students in the Roadrunner Program will be able to earn their bachelor's degree eight months sooner than students in the regular nursing program.

"We are really excited about the changes to the department in the last few years and will continue to strive for student success and patient safety," Hoke said.

Annually, National Nurses Week begins on May 6, marked as RN Recognition Day, and ends on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, founder of nursing as a modern profession.