New program seeks to lure nurses in New Mexico rural areas

(AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Presbyterian Healthcare Services and the University of New Mexico are teaming to lure nurses into some of the state’s most rural areas.

The two health care organizations recently collaborated to land a $3.2 million grant to develop a residency program for nurse practitioners in 10 New Mexico cities and towns, the Albuquerque Journal reports .

The four-year grant from the national Health Resources and Services Administration will help nurses and midwives relocate and stay in remote areas, Johanna Stiesmeyer, director of clinical education and professional development for Presbyterian, said.

“Getting providers out there to those communities is so, so hard,” Stiesmeyer said.

On average, rural residents nationally tend to be less healthy than those in urban areas, and have significantly less access to nurses and other health resources, according to a study from Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. The study says fewer than 11% of physicians in the U.S. practice in rural areas, where 20% of the population lives. Over 20 million rural Americans live in areas that have a provider-to-patient ratio of 1-to-3,500 or worse.

Stiesmeyer said the problem is particularly stark in New Mexico’s rural counties, where roughly one-third of the state’s 2.1 million residents live.

Nationwide, there are about 0.83 nurses per 1,000 residents, Stiesmeyer said. In rural New Mexico, the nurse-to-resident ratio is roughly one-third of that.

“There is just a monster gap for patients out there,” she said.

Through the grant, the program will send graduates from the University of New Mexico’s College of Nursing to 10 communities: Capitan, Carrizozo, Corona, Española, Ruidoso, Southwest Albuquerque, Socorro, Belen, Los Lunas, and Tucumcari.

Carolyn Montoya, associate dean of clinical affairs at the UNM College of Nursing, said the program also will have a focus on mental health issues, substance abuse and dealing with patients who have a mix of ailments.

The first group of nurses and midwives will be selected in the first half of 2020.