Friday, September 29, 2023 San Juan Regional Medical Center, San Juan College Partnership Recognized by New Mexico Hospital Association

San Juan Regional Medical Center CEO Jason Rounds (left) presents the award to San Juan College’s Dr. Brandon Whatley, Vice President for Learning, (center) and Dr. Boomer Appleman, Vice President for Student Services (right)

The New Mexico Hospital Association has selected San Juan College as a 2023 recipient of its Commitment to Community Healthcare award. The award honors community organizations that work in partnership with New Mexico hospitals to strengthen the health and wellbeing of the communities they serve. The college was nominated by San Juan Regional Medical Center in recognition of their longtime partnership dedicated to cultivating the next generation of nurses.

“San Juan Regional Medical Center has a rich history of collaboration with San Juan College's nursing program, fostering invaluable opportunities for students to gain real-world experience in diverse clinical settings,” said Jason Rounds, CEO of San Juan Regional Medical Center. “This enduring partnership plays a pivotal role in enabling students to apply their knowledge within actual patient care scenarios, nurturing their skills and confidence and creating the next generation of nurses in the Four Corners region.” 

The San Juan College Nursing Program began as a collaboration between San Juan College and San Juan Regional Medical Center in the late 1960’s as a nursing assistant training program. By the late 1970’s, the program had developed into an Associate Degree Nursing program. In the Spring of 2015, San Juan Regional Medical Center, San Juan College and the University of New Mexico partnered with the New Mexico Nursing Education Consortium to offer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN), allowing students in the Four Corners to complete their entire program while staying at home.

“By allowing students to complete the clinical requirements of our nursing program close to home, those who graduate with nursing degrees from San Juan College are more inclined to stay and fulfill crucial roles within the local healthcare system,” said Shawna Kemper, San Juan College Director of Nursing. “This desire to serve the community that raised them, in turn, ensures that our community benefits from a stable and skilled healthcare workforce.”

Throughout the years, San Juan Regional Medical Center has provided funding for the nursing department for continuing education opportunities for full-time faculty as well as for tuition for those seeking graduate degrees. The funding also provided equipment for the labs within the nursing program which enhanced learning opportunities for students. 

To enhance the collaboration between the two entities and ensure the needs are met, San Juan Regional Medical Center employs a Clinical Scholar who is closely involved in all aspects of the San Juan College Nursing program. In addition, Department of Nursing faculty meet with nurse managers from the hospital at least once a year. These meetings foster a team approach to review clinical opportunities and graduate hires, collaborate to promote learning opportunities, and share program outcome information.

“I am extremely grateful for our partnership with San Juan Regional Medical Center,” said Dr. Toni Hopper Pendergrass, president of San Juan College. “Throughout the years, this collaboration has not only extended to the nursing program, but also encompassed our many other healthcare programs. This partnership has enriched the lives of our students as well as worked to address the healthcare needs of our community more effectively.”

Thanks to this strong partnership and the dedicated efforts of both entities, the San Juan College nursing program helps to alleviate the nursing shortage in New Mexico while providing a homegrown pool of locally educated nurses to meet our community’s healthcare needs. This contributes significantly to improving health equity in the Four Corners, ensuring access to care, addressing specific health challenges, and providing culturally competent healthcare services for better health outcomes for the communities we are privileged to serve. We look forward to the next 50 years of dedicated partnership between San Juan Regional Medical Center and San Juan College.


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