CCC, ENMU partner to improve nursing programs

By Liliana Castillo: Freedom New Mexico

Clovis Community College and Eastern New Mexico University are joining hands to deliver more and better trained nurses.

Officials at both institutions and Plains Regional Medical Center say that’s important because Clovis and Portales — like much of the country — are always in need of nurses.

All of this is possible through a joint $3.4 million grant to be awarded Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education.

The money is available to Hispanic-serving schools, meaning the schools must have more than a 25 percent Hispanic undergraduate population.

CCC has 26.5 percent Hispanic students and ENMU has 28 percent.

David Caffey, vice president for Institutional Effectiveness at CCC, said the two schools were able to apply for the grant together because they complement each other.

“There has to be a reason for you to apply together. There has to be something that you couldn’t accomplish unless you worked together,” Caffey said. “With nursing, that’s pretty obvious. We have the two-year RN (registered nurse) program and Eastern has the third and fourth-year BSN (bachelor of science in nursing) program.”

Caffey said the goal is to raise the number of nurses available to the area and the amount of training nurses get when they go into the field.

The grant provides nearly $700,000 a year for five years. Caffey said the schools will receive equal parts of the program money. ENMU will also receive administration dollars.

Caffey’s counterpart at ENMU, Patrice Caldwell, executive director of Planning and Analysis, said there are several phrases to the institutions’ plan.

“One of the issues is that a nurse that completes their work as an RN can immediately be employed,” Caldwell said. “There is a great shortage of nurses who complete a BSN.”

Caldwell said the RN program at CCC is hands-on.

The BSN program at ENMU is all online.

Transfering from one program to the other can be intimidating, Caldwell said. Some of the grant money will be used to train teachers and advisors to help smooth the transition.

The shortage of nurses with a BSN also translates into a shortage of nurses who can go into entry-level management.

Plains Regional Medical Center Administrator Hoyt Skabelund said there is a nursing shortage all over the world.

“Nurses are essential to running a hospital. They touch the patient more often than any other care giver,” Skabelund said.

Skabelund said Clovis is in a better position than most communities because of the local nursing programs at CCC and ENMU. He said the hospital employs about 250 nurses, with less than 15 percent turnover.

Each year, the hospital has about 47 open slots for nurses.

“We hire a lot from the local program. The drawback of that is that there is a national sortage of specialty nurses such as an operating nurse or an intensive care nurse,” Skabelund said.

While the hospital depends on the two schools for the majority of their nursing staff, Skabelund said it’s a benefit for the programs to be improved.

“It’s great to see (ENMU and CCC) work together. It should produce a higher trained nurse and it increases the potential for them to specialty nurses,” Skabelund said. “To have that money to bolster those nursing programs is great.”