Group Focuses on Health Career Awareness

To address New Mexico's shortage of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, a group of volunteers is working to raise interest in health careers among state youth. The group also aims to increase access to clinical education opportunities for all nursing students. These ideas stem from the recommendations created at the statewide forum, “Looking to the Future: Preparing for the Next Generation in Health Careers. “

The forum brought together community members and healthcare educators, employers, and professionals from all regions of New Mexico. After the forum, an implementation team was established to advance the participants' recommendations.

A key recommendation is to increase health career awareness using web-based solutions.

A web site has been created and will be maintained by the UNM Health Sciences Center Office of Diversity. This committee, lead by Joaquin Baca, associated director, Office of Diversity, developed a prototype, social networking site which can provide access to information from around the state on health career programs, events, and other career resources. The site will be available to student advisors in middle and high schools; students and faculty in colleges, universities, professional schools, and student health clubs; as well as recruiters and employers. It will provide information that is valuable to all healthcare disciplines.

Arthur Kaufman, M.D., UNM Health Sciences Vice President for Community Health and co-chair of the implementation team believes the social networking website will increase the pool of healthcare professionals. "This web portal can provide specific information on student health clubs, certification and degree requirements, and curriculum for all disciplines," said Kaufman. "It can promote communication among young people with an emerging interest in health careers, current healthcare students, and local health professionals throughout the state."

Another recommendation relates to the required clinical education nursing students must complete. Currently, hospitals and other healthcare facilities can only accommodate a limited number of nursing students because of the current faculty shortage. This results in limiting the number of students who can be admitted to nursing schools.

To identify solutions to this "bottleneck," a committee led by Kathy Lopez-Bushnell and Pat Boyle, has surveyed all nursing schools and clinical institutions. The results will be reviewed at a statewide meeting in March. The committee hopes to foster a more collaborative approach to clinical education that will increase the number of student nurses that can be accommodated.

"The process of planning clinical rotations for nursing students can be challenging for both the clinical service settings and academia. This survey, along with the commitment from all stakeholders to increase access, will be a very useful tool as we continue to work together and explore ways to overcome barriers that constrain capacity," said Dr. Valerie Romero-Leggott, UNM Health Sciences Associate Dean for Diversity and co-chair of the implementation team.

Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322

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