Partnership begins work to expand health care workforce in New Mexico

Under a mission to develop and expand the workforce of nurses and social workers in New Mexico, a new partnership between the NMSU College of Health and Social Services and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico began to take shape in fall 2020.

Through a $500,000 gift from BCBSNM, CHSS created a new faculty position in the NMSU School of Nursing and funded 40 scholarships for seniors in undergraduate nursing and social work programs who have committed to working in New Mexico for at least one year after graduating.

“Expanding the workforce of nurses and social workers in New Mexico is critical in providing access to care and promoting the health of our state’s Medicaid population,” says Sharon Huerta, BCBSNM vice president of New Mexico Medicaid Operations. “The new faculty position at NMSU will play a key role in training the students who will soon be serving our communities as nurses and social workers.”

The new Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico Nursing Professor of Practice is dedicated to preparing nursing, nurse practitioner and social work students for New Mexico’s workforce. Elizabeth Kuchler, a board-certified family nurse practitioner who has been a faculty member in the School of Nursing for the past five years, was appointed to the position in August 2020.

Elizabeth Kuchler was appointed as the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico Nursing Professor of Practice in the NMSU School of Nursing and will prepare nursing, nurse practitioner and social work students for New Mexico’s workforce.

“Dr. Kuchler is a dedicated teacher, student adviser and mentor. She has close to 40 years as a registered nurse with a focus in public health nursing and has specialized in the care of children and adolescents as a nurse practitioner for the past 15 years,” says Alexa Doig, director of the School of Nursing.

In addition to continuing her work as a nurse educator in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, Kuchler now serves in the role of the director of Clinical Placements for Nurse Practitioner Programs, engaging in community outreach focusing on nursing workforce development.

“I am both proud and humbled by this opportunity to be the bridge between the College of Health and Social Services and the School of Nursing and our community partners,” Kuchler says. “With our combined efforts, we will prepare nurse practitioners and social workers for the benefit of all New Mexicans. These health care and social services providers will be able to improve access to health care and related services in communities across the state.”

In fall 2020, CHSS began awarding the scholarships created through the BCBSNM gift to students in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing and the Bachelor of Social Work programs. The recipients have each pledged to gain health care-related employment in New Mexico immediately following graduation, preferably in behavioral health, and remain employed for at least one year.

Carlos Andres López ’10

Sharneece Pratt (left) and Stephen Montoya earned bachelor’s degrees in nursing in 2019. A donation from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico is funding 40 scholarships for students in bachelor-level nursing and social work programs and the new faculty position as part of a new partnership with the College of Health and Social Services.