Choosing an RN Program in New Mexico

Before enrolling in a New Mexico nursing program, take some time to understand the options as there are an abundance of them.

Program Options

There are currently twelve associate programs and six bachelor’s programs in the state. There are also career ladder programs that allow a student to test at the LPN level after one year of nursing coursework and test at the RN level after an additional year.
While bachelor’s and associate programs qualify graduates for the same RN license, distinctions in practice are often made based on educational level.

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Some students opt to do their pre-licensure coursework at the associate level and then complete their baccalaureate degree later, either online or at a traditional campus.

The Admission Process

Prospective nursing students should be prepared to take prerequisite courses before application and also score well on an examination. In some cases, the required exam is the HESI, which is geared toward future health care providers. Some schools administer the TEAS, a test of essential academic skills.

Baccalaureate programs may set academic standards higher than associate programs. However, this doesn’t mean the program is more selective, at least in one sense of the word. ‘Highly selective’ is often used to refer to programs that admit less than half of applicants. Some associate level nursing programs are highly selective because there is so much demand! Many people want to begin their nursing education at a relatively inexpensive public institution – and there are only so many seats. New Mexico schools are limited in the number of students they can admit due to shortages of faculty, training sites, and public funding (http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.nmnursingexcellence.org/resource/resmgr/imported/Competencies-Revised%20FINAL%2012.09.pdf).

On a positive note, many schools have moved away from wait listing qualified candidates and toward admitting the more competitive students each application cycle.

Approval and Accreditation

New Mexico is among the many states that approve nursing programs without requiring them to seek accreditation through a national agency. Many New Mexico nursing programs, though, do hold accreditation through the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). A prospective student may do a search for accredited programs through the ACEN (http://acenursing.org/) and CCNE (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/Accreditation/AccreditedPrograms.htm) websites.

It is important to understand the distinction between school-level accreditation and program-level accreditation. School-level accreditation can be crucial. Graduate programs across disciplines frequently require students to have graduated from a regionally accredited institution. National accreditation, often granted to trade schools, can be sufficient for many purposes, including eligibility for financial aid.

Pass Rates on the NCLEX-RN

Since the NCLEX board examination is a licensing requirement, prospective students may want to consider how well a program does preparing its students. Pass rate data is available on the Board site (http://nmbon.sks.com/NCLEX_RN_Nursing_Rates.aspx).

Financial Considerations

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average salary for a New Mexico registered nurse at $66,710. This figure includes some highly experienced and educated nurses. It often takes some years to reach the average – even if one succeeds in having a job offer at graduation!

Nursing school expenses can be considerable especially if one is not beginning their studies at a community college. The expenses can be partly offset by scholarships and financial aid. Highly qualified students can compete for merit-based scholarships; some nursing schools boast quite a few. The federal government is a potential source of need-based grants and loans. Some nursing students receive loan scholarships through the HRSA in return for service commitments in under served areas.

Staying Informed

Students may want to attend advising sessions or even meet with someone one-on-one before applying to a school of nursing.

Resources

RN License Requirements in New Mexico

New Mexico Board of Nursing

New Mexico Nurses Association

Becoming an RN in New Mexico: RN Career Paths

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