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New DACC nursing program to address statewide shortages

Cynthia Olivas has envisioned what the future of the Doña Ana Community College Nursing Program would look like for some time: increased enrollment, continuing happy students and a full nursing program built to serve students living in southern Doña Ana County. 

Olivas is DACC’s nursing program director. The program announced plans to expand to DACC’s Sunland Park Center, with classes beginning in fall 2022. A move Olivas has been working hard for, “expansion is important as it serves multiple purposes.” 

“One reason is it increases enrollment, and increases graduation and completion rates. Two, there is a nursing shortage not only in our community, but across our state,” Olivas says.

The Sunland Park Center, located at 3365 McNutt Road in Sunland Park, New Mexico, is roughly 40 minutes away from DACC’s Espina Campus, where nursing classes are held. With approval from the New Mexico Board of Nursing, the Sunland Park Center can begin its Career Ladder Program, which offers licensed practical nurse certificates and registered nurse degrees. 

According to the New Mexico Health Care Workforce annual report by the University of New Mexico in 2021, there is a shortage of 6,223 registered nurses in New Mexico. Of that number, Doña Ana County faces a shortage of 747. 

“With nursing shortages, it ultimately affects the people, our patients. Nurses advocate for health promotion, educate the public on the prevention of illness and injury, and provide care,” Olivas says.

Students enrolled at Sunland Park will receive hybrid instruction including online and in-person clinicals. The Texas Board of Nursing is allowing students to complete clinical training at El Paso hospitals. 

The next step for the program is to bring in a stand-alone licensed practical nurse program, which will allow students to graduate in less time since it doesn’t require training to become a registered nurse. DACC has accepted students from the former Vista College, which closed its doors in fall 2021. 

The program growth, Olivas says, is what’s been needed.

“The community college’s mission is to be a responsive and accessible learning center for the community,” Olivas says. “The expansion helps bring communities together by offering what the community needs.” 

For more information on the DACC Nursing Program and/or to apply, visit

DACC nursing student Ryan May works with an infant mannequin. 
DACC nursing student Aryanna Smith (left) gives Melinda Hickmon, a DACC faculty member, a COVID-19 vaccine.