RN to MSN Programs in New Mexico

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing issued a report in 2013 showing that 125 of New Mexico’s 1,023 nursing students were pursuing a Masters of Science in Nursing at that time, representing 12% of all nursing students in the state. Many of these students were in fact registered nurses who had returned to school to complete RN to MSN bridge programs as a path to advanced practice licensure or to take on other advanced roles outside of the clinical environment. Of these 125 students, 96 were enrolled in a specialty track leading to Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) licensure through the New Mexico Board of Nursing, while others were in generalist programs or otherwise preparing for positions in nursing leadership and administration, informatics, research and nursing education.

Nurses pursuing these RN-MSN bridge programs are sure to be well equipped to deal with the changes that are facing New Mexico’s healthcare system. According to a 2014 article in Modern Healthcare magazine, 160,000 more New Mexico residents will have access to healthcare under the Affordable Care Act. Though this is great news, it is expected that primary care providers will be stretched thin as they accept new patients.

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As of early 2015, New Mexico has concluded that the state’s population requires another 219 primary care providers to ensure optimum access to primary care services for all its residents. Registered nurses returning to school to complete RN to MSN bridge programs with a specialty track leading to advanced practice licensure are seen as the solution to this shortfall.

Enrolling in One of New Mexico’s RN-MSN Bridge Programs

New Mexico is home to specialized RN-MSN programs for generalists, as well as those aspiring to become advanced practice clinicians, educators, informaticists or administrators.

Online RN-MSN programs are available to New Mexico’s working RNs, as are hybrid online and on-campus options at institutions located in Las Cruces and Albuquerque.

Students will typically encounter enrollment requirements similar to those shown here:

  • Hold a diploma or Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) from an accredited institution
  • Maintain a minimum GPA in prior college coursework
  • Hold or acquire a valid New Mexico RN license within the first term of graduate study
  • Complete a graduate program application and pay a fee
  • Submit two or more letters of recommendation
  • Write a letter of intent
  • Submit a professional resume
  • Complete Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) certification before beginning clinical coursework
  • Complete a program interview

RN-MSN Bridge Program Structure

RN-MSN programs typically range between 30 and 60 credits over 2 to 3 years, with general programs near the lower end and APN programs near the higher end. For instance, a nurse administration program might require 32 credits over 2 years, while an adult/gerontology nurse practitioner program might require 56 credits over 3 years.

Program length will also depend on a student’s previous level of education. Those with diplomas or ADNs will typically need to attain a BSN degree in the course of the program prior to taking graduate-level courses. In these accelerated programs students complete undergraduate bridge coursework in lieu of open electives and earn both a BSN and MSN upon matriculation.

Core MSN courses seek to enhance an RN’s understanding of the healthcare system. Upon completing undergraduate bridge coursework, RN-MSN bridge programs in all tracks typically include the following components:

  • Master’s core curriculum including classes in Foundations of Advanced Nursing, Research in Nursing and Evidence-Based Practice
  • Specialized courses in a student’s area of interest (advanced practice, education, informatics, administration, etc.)
  • A Master’s thesis or capstone project, completed in an accompanying course or outside of class in some cases

Time commitments vary widely among programs, however future advanced clinicians will typically need to complete a more in-depth practicum than generalists or those in other tracks. Those in an advanced practice track will complete up to 800 hours of clinical experience through clinical rotations at a hospital or clinic that partners with their institution.

Nurses in non-clinical tracks will shadow experienced professionals working in their area of focus.

Specialized RN-MSN Advanced Practice Nurse Programs

Tailored RN-MSN bridge programs are available for students hoping to pursue Advanced Practice Nursing licensure through the New Mexico Board of Nursing. After selecting a specific patient care role and patient population focus, these students take the general MSN coursework above in addition to courses pertaining to their role and patient focus.

Programs are available in New Mexico for the following patient care roles and population foci:

  • Certified Nurse Practitioner in Adult, Family, Pediatric, Gerontological, Acute Care, Adult and Family Psychiatric/Mental Health, Women’s Health or Neonatal care
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist in Medical/Surgical, Gerontological, Adult Psychiatric/Mental Health, Child and Adolescent Psychiatric/Mental Health, Acute or Acute and Critical Care
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetics


Becoming an Advanced Practice Nurse in New Mexico

Prior to obtaining licensure in their advanced practice role through the New Mexico Board of Nursing, MSN graduates must obtain certification through a national credentialing body. Each of these governs their respective area of practice and maintains their own exams and application process. Students are expected to apply for national certification through the appropriate body and pass the exam before applying for their license through the state board.

National Credentialing Bodies Approved by the New Mexico Board of Nursing

Certified Nurse Practitioners (CNPs) may obtain certification through the following:

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) may be certified through:

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists must be certified through the National Board of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists.

After completing the certification process through one of these boards, graduates may then apply for an Advance Practice Nursing license in their respective role through the New Mexico Board of Nursing. To do so, students must:

  • Complete an application for licensure pertaining to their specific role (CNP, CNS or CRNA)
  • Send in official transcripts
  • Pay an application fee
  • Submit proof of national credentials and a copy of a valid New Mexico RN license

Graduates awaiting national exam results may apply for a temporary permit through the Board if they so choose.

Opportunities for MSN-Qualified Nurses in New Mexico

In 2013 Governor Susana Martinez advocated for increased funding for loan repayment programs and an increase in the number of nurse practitioner positions at a prominent medical center in the state. Developments such as these make it an ideal time for APN-licensed MSN graduates to transition into these new roles.

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Graduates of New Mexico’s RN-MSN programs in tracks other than clinical practice take on critical roles as nurse administrators, directors of nursing, health information specialists and educators or nursing school faculty after graduation. These highly skilled professionals return to their facilities of employment to ensure patients receive quality care and promote a safe and productive environment for their staff.

As of 2013 the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that 209 qualified applicants were turned away from the state’s nursing programs due to a lack of faculty and clinical sites, an unfortunate educational gap considering the state’s current care shortage. MSN graduates that work as educators not only train the state’s future graduating classes, they help ease care gaps by producing highly qualified nurses each year.

Below is a sampling of the jobs into which these graduates might transition as of March 2015 shown for illustrative purposes:

Advanced Clinical Practice:

  • Primary Care Nurse Practitioner at Lovelace Medical Group in Albuquerque
  • Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist at Presbyterian Medical Services in Espanola
  • Nurse Anesthetist at Indian Health Services at Gallup

Leadership and Academia:

  • Assistant Professor at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces
  • Director of Case Management at Infinity MedStaff in Deming
  • RN Health Services Administrator at Southwest Correctional Medical Group in Carlsbad

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