Expertise, diligence, compassion – these are just some of the things that the Nursing Program at NMSU Carlsbad passes down to its students each year. As one of the most respected nursing programs in the country, Carlsbad has been able to produce employable nursing graduates at low tuition costs and with a comprehensive education that gives students a competitive edge.
“Nursing is always changing, as is healthcare,” said Claudia Estrada, an RN and one of the nursing professors at NMSU Carlsbad. “We’ve been fortunate to have both medium and high fidelity patient simulators to enhance our teaching strategies.”
As a nursing professor, clinical instruction takes precedence. Estrada and the rest of the nursing faculty accompany students to a wide variety of clinical areas for their required 100 hours of clinical instruction a semester. Some of these areas include hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, hospice care, and professional nursing meetings, like attendance at the State Board of Nursing.
“I think the biggest reward is seeing former students as they practice the profession of nursing, knowing that I had a little bit to do with their education and training,” Estrada said. “However, not every student completes each class successfully on the first attempt. It is difficult as a faculty member when students are not successful. Yet, patient safety has to be at the forefront of everything we do in nursing education.”
The pinning ceremony, Estrada added, is another great moment for students who complete the nursing program. Many of the graduates, she said, come from different walks of life, from older non-traditional students coming back to school, to younger students recently out of high school.
“I think people are drawn to nursing out of a desire to help people,” she said. “Nursing has an extremely high employment rate after completion of a degree. We also have a long standing reputation of excellence and I think that attracts a lot of students.”
Students, like Matthew Franco and Jennifer Warner, came to the nursing program to look for a challenging career they could be passionate about while helping people.
“I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, but I was unsure of what area to enter,” said Franco, who recently graduated in May.
Franco comes from a family of nurses, paramedics, and cardiologists, but was particularly motivated to pursue nursing when his mother and step-father were killed in a car accident in 2005. His sisters were also hurt in the crash, and Franco remembers the care the nurses took in helping them recover.
“While in the hospital, the nurses that cared for my sisters were amazing,” he said. “They gave my sisters the comfort they needed, offered a shoulder to cry on, and gave us hope when we thought all was lost. I will never forget what those nurses did for us, and I hope one day I can offer someone that level of compassion in their time of need.”
Warner, a Ruidoso native who moved to Carlsbad not long before starting the nursing program, had a few nursing friends that inspired her to check out the field.
“I wanted to go back to college and do something,” she said. “The nursing program is very fast paced, and I like that. There’s not a whole lot of lag time and you’re always learning something.”
Since receiving its re-accreditation from the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission in 2011, the nursing program has seen the opening of the new Nursing and Allied Health Building. The building, which was funded by community and tax payer support, hosts several SMART enabled classrooms, a light filled common area for studying, new administration offices, and a nursing lab set up to be like a real hospital nursing unit.
“My very first year was the first year in that building,” Warner mentioned. “The area is great. It’s good to get used to the routine of searching for symptoms, knowing what medication to order, practicing calling the doctor and telling him what’s wrong, and following orders.”
Another helpful addition has been the life-like dolls in the nursing unit, Warner said. The dolls can be programmed to simulate real patient vitals, and can even blink, breathe, and talk.
“You can change the dolls’ monitors so that you can really be connected directly to what is going on with the patient,” she said.
“It allows us a safe environment to be tested and learn from our mistakes without putting actual lives in danger,” added Franco. “It has been an invaluable asset for us and I am grateful to the people who made it possible.”
Franco and Warner, along with Cassie Groves and Sasha Valverde, will be heading to Lubbock for a critical care internship at University Medical Center. The four are amongst 20 students who were chosen out of 250 graduates nationwide. There, they will be rotating around Medical ICU, Cardiac ICU, the Burn Unit, and Trauma/Surgical ICU.
“I think it really speaks volumes about our school that we got accepted,” said Warner. “Three of us are going to ICU and one is going to regular medical surgical form. Coming from a small town, we didn’t have a lot of opportunities, but we definitely have the education.”
While Franco and Warner plan to continue their education in nursing, they won’t forget the opportunities that were granted to them by attending NMSU Carlsbad.
“We are New Mexico’s flagship program,” Franco said. “Hospitals around the region know the weight a nursing degree from NMSU Carlsbad carries.