Today Governor Susana Martinez announced and discussed the various healthcare workforce expansion proposals that were passed by the New Mexico Senate and House of Representatives during the recently-concluded 30-day legislative session.
"I'm very proud that, in a bipartisan way, we passed numerous initiatives designed to create healthcare jobs of all types throughout New Mexico," said Governor Martinez. "With these changes, we establish ourselves as a national leader in responding to the new demands imposed by recent health care changes, and we better position ourselves to provide high-quality primary care services to New Mexico families."
New Mexico is a large, rural state that has experienced a shortage in primary care and family practice healthcare providers for quite some time. In fact, 32 of New Mexico's 33 counties are designated by the federal government as Health Professional Shortage Areas, and the full implementation of Centennial Care and Medicaid expansion could add as many as 205,000 new patients statewide. Prior to the legislative session, Governor Martinez announced a series of proposals, nearly all of which recently passed the New Mexico State Legislature, to create new well-paying healthcare jobs while addressing the challenges posed by healthcare reform:
Voluntary Community Health Worker Training and Certification Program:
$500,000 was included in the state budget and legislation was passed to create a statewide voluntary community health worker training and certification program.
A community health worker is a frontline public health worker and trusted member of a community who works to increase and improve health knowledge and behaviors through outreach, community education, and advocacy. They frequently support the work of nurses, doctors, and other providers in hospitals and health clinics throughout the state. Governor Martinez's initiative establishes a voluntary statewide, competency-based training and certification program for community health workers looking to further develop their talents, and those who provide eligible health services will have access to Medicaid reimbursement for the first time. The goal of the initiative is to utilize community health workers to provide more high-quality preventative care services in order to prevent costly visits to the emergency room, as well as better help patients manage chronic conditions and limit re-hospitalizations through improved after-care following hospital procedures.
Expanded Telemedical Services:
$600,000 was included in the state budget to connect more rural-area patients and providers with access to specialists and physicians in other parts of the state.
Telemedicine connects patients and providers with experts and specialists in another location, or more commonly, a primary care physician or nurse practitioner in a rural area with a physician or specialist in another city. Expanding the use of telemedicine saves money for rural-area patients who would have otherwise had to travel to another location for care.
Residency Expansion for Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, General Surgery, and Community Medicine Physicians:
$905,000 was included in the state budget to expand residency slots at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in the areas of internal medicine, psychiatry, general surgery, and family and community medicine.
Nurse Practitioner Expansion: $1.655 million was included in the state budget to expand the number of nurse practitioner slots at UNM by 24 students per year including: Family Nurse Practitioners, Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, and Certified Nurse Midwives. Unlike some other states, such as Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah, New Mexico offers full, independent practice and prescriptive authority for licensed nurse practitioners, and was the first state in the nation to establish family nurse practitioners. This model has become an example for other states across the country.
Expedited Nurse Licensure:
Legislation passed and was signed by Governor Martinez that requires the state to license any qualified nurse or nurse practitioner who wants to move to New Mexico to practice within five days or less. This initiative sends a strong message that New Mexico is one of the best states in the nation to serve as a nurse or nurse practitioner.
Expanding Loan-for-Service Programs and Loan Repayment Efforts to Attract More Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Doctors, and Other Health Professionals:
$726,000 was included in the state budget to specifically increase the number of health care professionals in health shortage areas; these awards offer incentives and support that increase the likelihood that aspiring healthcare professionals will serve and practice in our rural areas for years to come.
Training More Dentists:
$146,000 was included in the state budget to add six additional New Mexico dental slots in the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE); this will increase the number of practicing dentists once they have completed their studies.
"How we respond to challenges is what sets us apart from the rest," concluded Governor Martinez. "By investing in efforts such as these, we can better build a healthcare workforce capable of ensuring the high-quality care New Mexico's families deserve - creating new jobs in a critical sector of our economy in the process."
Prior to the legislative session, the Governor also announced the establishment of a common nursing curriculum across the state so that colleges and universities can train more qualified nurses. For too long, New Mexicans seeking to put their talents and passions to work serving their communities as nurses have had to deal with undue hardships when transferring credits from one institution to another. This initiative also allows colleges throughout the state to offer bachelor's degrees in nursing in their own communities - keeping more aspiring nurses in rural areas and ending the requirement that they move to an urban area to attain their higher education.