A Veteran Who Fights for Veterans

Interview by Sue Wolinsky

Caption: Captain Michelle Peacock (nee Racicot), Chief Nurse Trauma, and her 377th Forward Surgical Team, Ghazni, Afghanistan.

A veteran fighting for veterans and all the people of New Mexico has officially thrown her name into the hat for the New Mexico House District 28 seat soon to be vacated by NM Rep. Melanie Stansbury. The veteran is Michelle (nee Racicot) Peacock, U.S. Army Captain, who grew up here and is ready to give back to this Northeast Heights community. 

This VMF Caucus member has plenty to give back.  Her vitae includes:

  • Nursing, nurse practitioner, and management experience in the private sector and Veterans Administration (VA).
  • A solid network of allies gained during years of service to, and advocacy for, community organizations and professional societies.
  • A strong background in health policy.
  • “Boots on the ground” experience in improving the quality of her patient’s lives and transforming that experience into developing public policy to accomplish that on a larger scale.

A unique perspective as a mom, a woman veteran and a nurse practitioner – and a native New Mexican! 

“While I have been asked by my patients and peers to run, and to bring my voice as a mom, a woman veteran, and a nurse practitioner – the catalyst for me was 2020.  I had the opportunity to work on health policy for the 2020 (legislative) session as part of my internship for my Ph.D. in Health Policy; that work showed me that we needed in our Round House a nurse practitioner and woman veteran to advocate for our community. That realization was intensified during COVID,” she said.

COVID-19 EXPERIENCE: Peacock has been in the eye of the COVID-19 storm at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Hospital in Albuquerque. She became Acting Co-Chief of the Ambulatory Care Service for the NM VA Health Care System (NMVAHCS). Her successes are impressive:

  • She created a 50-bed contingency tent hospital for the NMVAHCS in three weeks.
  • She transformed all 17 clinics from face-to-face clinics to virtual visits. 
  • She established telecommuting and re-opening processes for the Ambulatory Care Clinics.
  • She created a COVID-19 screening process to access and treat COVID-19 in veterans’ homes, with provisions for quick assessment and treatment of patients with worsening symptoms.
  • She set up a daily screening protocol for registered nurses (RN) and other healthcare providers.
  • She is currently conducting a pilot study on provider burnout that includes telecommuting as an intervention.

This trial-by-fire experience also influenced her decision to be considered for the HD 28 vacancy. “As a leader responsible for NM VA’s response to COVID-19, I worked with everyone to make sure that our veterans were taken care of, and I knew that we needed more advocates for veterans and a voice for nurses and nurse practitioners in the Round House… So those tipping points of working to create health policy and experiencing he need for large-scale advocacy as a nurse practitioner in the New Mexico legislature helped solidify my decision as to this appointment,” she explained.

“My ask of our Veteran Caucus is to call and email the Bernalillo County Commissioners in support of my application in this appointment process,” she said.  If you would like to share your recommendation with all five members of the Bernalillo County Commission, email commission@bernco.gov.

The regular job of this mother of two children and wife of a geologist and engineer is the Nurse Practitioner Supervisor in Ambulatory Care for the NMVAHCS. She also has served on several major VA-wide health care boards since 2015. She feels many veterans open up to her because she was deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. This experience has honed her collaborative skills. “When a patient walks into my office and asks for help, I don’t ask them what their political party is.

In fact, I ask them to explain the situation to me, what they see as the problems, concerns, and how to fix the problem. That is what being a leader means; taking in all parts of a situation and working together to get something accomplished….My goal (now) is to work collaboratively on legislation that benefits our community. That may mean trying to explain the larger picture to legislators or bringing back that idea or goal from the Round House and explaining how we as a district fit into that picture,” she said.

A TOP PRIORITY: Expanding medical care to New Mexicans would be one of her top priorities if elected.  She proposes tax credits for nurse practitioner preceptors, who oversee the 800 clinical hours that nurse practitioners must experience as part of their certification.

“In New Mexico, we need more health care providers. This means more family nurse practitioners, more psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, more psychologists, psychiatrists, and more physicians. We have the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University – both of whom teach these specific fields. What they are missing: preceptors, funding, and retainment of those educated professionals once they graduate. If we helped with tax credits, that would infuse money back into our local economy and provide an incentive for these professionals to stay and teach others,” she explained.  

EDUCATION: Following her 12 years as an emergency/trauma/life support nurse – which included three overseas tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Germany, she (like many veterans) has continued to serve. Her professional medical civilian life included more than 10 years as a nurse and nurse practitioner. She earned her bachelor of science degree in nursing from Pacific Lutheran University in 2004 and Masters from the UNM College of Nursing in 2012. She has completed her coursework and is currently starting her thesis in her health policy Ph.D. program here. 

Learn more about Michelle Peacock in this interview
“Together We Serve” by Dr. Circe Woessner, Director of the MAMF by clicking 
HERE