Gov. Susana Martinez
Gov. Susana Martinez, R-N.M., announces plans to seek funding for more nurse practioner and family medinice residency slots during a news conference at UNM Hospital. Dr. Paul Roth, UNM Chancellor for Health Sciences, and Dr. Carolyn Montoya, head of UNM's advanced practice nursing program, joined Martinez at the event, held on Dec. 3, 2013.
Credit: John Arnold

Gov. Susana Martinez has announced she will seek nearly $2.5 million in new funding to expand nurse practitioner and family medicine residency slots to help meet a rapidly growing demand for healthcare.

If approved, much of the money would go to expand existing programs at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, home to the UNM School of Medicine and College of Nursing.

During a news conference Tuesday at the UNM Hospital, the governor said she would ask the New Mexico Legislature for $750,000 to add seven new family medicine residencies.

Three of those slots would be so-called “one-plus-two” programs, in which a medical school graduate would serve one year of residency in an urban area and two years in a rural New Mexico community, said Martinez, who was joined in the announcement by Dr. Paul B. Roth, UNM Chancellor for Health Sciences, and Dr. Carolyn Montoya, head of UNM’s advanced practice nursing program.

Martinez also said she is asking for $1.6 million to add 24 additional nurse practitioner training slots, adding family and pediatric nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives to the state’s healthcare workforce.

She also wants to expand telemedicine programs in the state to improve delivery of care to rural residents with the help of a recently announced $600,000 grant program. “Telemedicine can be a very effective method of connecting rural patients and providers with the guidance of experts and specialists,” Martinez said.

Roth, who also serves as dean of the UNM School of Medicine, hailed the governor’s support for using state money to expand the residency program. Most medical residents are supported by federal funding, which has been capped in recent years. This cap limits the number of new doctors who can enter the workforce, he said.

“This will allow us to increase the output of our doctors,” Roth said. Meanwhile, an expanded residency program “offers the opportunity for residents to get hands-on training directly in the communities that need their services the most.”

Roth noted that greater Medicaid coverage and new enrollment of New Mexicans in insurance exchanges under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mean an additional 300,000 New Mexicans will have access to healthcare by 2015.

“With numbers like these, the state will need a well-trained workforce in sufficient numbers to meet this growing patient demand,” Roth said. “We will simply have to redouble our efforts to grow the numbers of healthcare providers we are graduating.”

Martinez noted the newly announced initiatives follow on several other healthcare-related policy proposals she has made recently, the most significant of which was the decision to use federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage for New Mexicans.

She has also announced her support for $1.5 million in financial aid to induce healthcare providers to practice in the state, and has pushed for a common nursing curriculum through the New Mexico Nursing Education Consortium. The governor also wants to streamline licensing requirements for nurses who relocate here and is supporting a new community health worker training and certification program.

Montoya, who has been a pediatric nurse practitioner for 32 years, noted that because New Mexico’s nurse practitioners can practice and prescribe under their own authority, they can serve as primary care providers in all settings.

But there are significant limitations to the number of new nurse practitioners the university can graduate, she said. “We are telling nurses who are applying that we can’t take you because we don’t have the resources,” Montoya said.

She noted that 80 percent of those graduating from the nurse practitioner program are committed to caring for under-served populations. “With these initiatives, we will be leading the way,” Montoya said. “New Mexico will not be last – we will be first.”