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Bond proposal Could Help NMJC Grow Nursing Program

Bond proposal Could Help NMJC Grow Nursing Program photo 9/9/2016 5:08:29 p.m. - Hobbs, NM.  

[Story by Dorothy N. Fowler with Hobbs New Sun] 

Fifty newly minted nursing students sat in a classroom that would have been crowded if only 30 students had been there.

They are the largest portion of the 79 students enrolled in the nursing program at New Mexico Junior College this semester, and while they won’t be in school long enough to enjoy it, they and their instructors are hoping that future classes will be able to go to school in building designed as a school of nursing.

Voters in New Mexico have an opportunity to make that happen for NMJC and for other colleges and universities throughout the state when they vote for Higher-Ed Bond C. If the proposition, which is on the bottom of the second page of the ballot, passes, New Mexico Junior College will get $4 million with which to start a building project that will provide state-of-the-art facilities for student nurses.

Delores Thompson, director of nursing programs at NMJC, said the nursing school has been housed in the same building since it opened in 1965.

“Over the years, we’ve just fit ourselves into existing space,” she said. “And now we’ve outgrown that space and are turning qualified students away.”

This year, there was no room for 14 applicants, Thompson said.

A tour of the building and learning activities taking place there, indicated that the faculty and students were doing well in their present circumstances, but more could be done if there were more space.

In one of the clinical areas where the room is divided by blue curtains designed to look like an old fashion multi-patient hospital room, a mannequin that looked really sick, had just thrown up.

First year student Courtney Brown was assigned to clean up the results, which were a reasonable facsimile on the floor beside the bed. Before she could begin the clean-up, however, she had to learn to put on protective clothing, which included a yellow paper gown, a face mask and gloves.

“I am loving this,” Brown said after she removed her protective clothing, a ritual that may be more important to the health of the caregiver than knowing how to put the clothing on. On the wing around the corner, second-year students were working with arms of the artificial variety in an exercise designed to teach them when they have the needle in a vein when they are placing an intravenous medication.

The arms were lying on lab tables and desks that were likely not originally meant to hold artificial arms.

In another room, a second-year student was working with an interactive mannequin whose name Thursday was “Fred UpChuck.” Upchuck had been giving his second-year nursing student, a bad time by upchucking.

The nursing professor supervising the cleanup said that for the most part, “Fred has been nice today.”

He doesn’t have to be. Fred is a high fidelity mannequin who can be made to simulate seizures, comas, and grouchiness, all of which the student nurses have to deal with.

Greater interactivity is part of the new nursing curriculum introduced throughout the state last year, Thompson said.

“The new curriculum includes all the things we’ve always taught and that students have always learned, but we are teaching it in new ways, so that students have to learn to think about how to apply what they’ve learned and then to apply it. For example, they have to not only know when a patient is in a diabetic coma, but what to do about it,” Thompson said.

Moreover, the new curriculum is required at every state supported school of nursing, which makes it possible for students who start their training at one school to transfer to another state-supported school and fit into the studies there.

“That’s a huge advantage,” Thompson said. “Patients can be sure that every nurse who trained in state-supported schools in New Mexico have the same excellent training.”

In addition to earning an Associates Degree in Nursing, students at NMJC have the opportunity to also earn a Bachelor of Nursing degree. NMJC entered into a partnership with the University of New Mexico two years ago that allows qualified students to receive a bachelor’s degree by taking a designated number of hours provided by UNM. Most of those hours are delivered through an interactive program called ZOOM. The program allows students and teachers at remote locations to talk to each other in real time, Thompson said.

Eight bachelor’s degree nursing students from NMJC graduated in August, said Thompson who has high praise for the teaching staff and for the nursing students.

“The staff has worked hard to implement the new way to teach,” she said. “It’s required a lot of time and effort. And our students are the ones with the kindest hearts, the ones who have already worked hard to get here,” Thompson said.

Nurses are the largest group of health-care providers in the United States, Thompson said. “To be sure they are getting the best education possible, we need facilities and technology that prepare them for what they’ll be doing after graduation. That’s why we need voters to approve Bond C,” Thompson said.

Dorothy N. Fowler can be reached at 575-391-5446 or .

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