How to Become a Physician Assistant in New Mexico
It is one of the duties of a New Mexico physician assistant to educate his or her patients on living a healthy lifestyle and taking smart preventative measures. Recently it was assessed that on average, more than one in four New Mexicans do not have health insurance compared with less than one in five for the average American. This means citizens of the Land of Enchantment have less preventative screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies. That is where PAs come in. Preventative medicine is usually less expensive and less traumatic on the body than catching a problem later when it is more developed. Physician assistants conduct tests, take specimens, and encourage preventative care with the aim of keeping more New Mexicans healthy. Citizens who are interested in how to become a physician assistant in New Mexico can follow these steps:
- Choose Accredited New Mexico Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
- Gain the Physician Assistant-Certified Credential
- Apply to be Licensed with the New Mexico Medical Board
- Maintain Licensure
Step 1. Choose Accredited New Mexico Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
When perusing the different PA degree programs across New Mexico, potential students should be aware of common admission requirements. These begin with a bachelor degree in any subject. Coming into a PA program with an organic sciences background will additionally fulfill a number of prerequisite course requirements. Undergraduate programs with a good science foundation include:
- Medical Assistant
- Public Health
Some other typical PA program admission requirements include having prior experience working in a clinical setting plus having taken the GREs (Graduate Record Examinations).
Another important fact to consider is that the New Mexico Medical Board, responsible for licensing PAs in the state, will only grant a PA License if the applicant has graduated from a degree program that is certified by the Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation (CAHEA of the American Medical Association). Furthermore, although preferred at the time of application, within one year of becoming licensed, PAs must earn a Physician Assistant-Certified credential which requires graduating from a PA degree program that is additionally certified by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).
Step 2. Gain the Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C) Credential
Obtaining the Physician Assistant-Certified credential is essential to becoming licensed in New Mexico or any other state, and is obtained in one way: passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). The PANCE is open to students beginning 90 days from their PA program graduation date and evaluates their knowledge of the human body, its organ systems, and diagnosing problems associated with these. It is a 300-question multiple-choice exam lasting five hours for which students can register online after paying a $475 registration fee.
The PANCE is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), which is also the awarding agency of the PA-C credential. The NCCPA offers practice exams for a $35 fee and a list of testing locations online.
Step 3. Apply to the New Mexico Medical Board for PA Licensure
PA Licenses are issued by the New Mexico Medical Board in Santa Fe after it has received a qualified and complete application. Candidates can begin by making a request to their PA degree program to send verification of graduation directly to the Board, and should include the following in their application packet:
- Application and background investigation fee of $186
- Board Application
- Two letters of recommendation from physicians who are familiar with the candidate’s character
- Verification of healthcare work experience
- Applicant’s oath
- Supervising Physician Statement of Responsibility
After the initial application and fee have been received the Board will send the candidate fingerprint cards as part of the background investigation. Applicants may be requested to appear before the Board for an interview.
Step 4. Maintain Licensure in New Mexico
Initial PA Licenses are valid until March 1st of the year following NCCPA certification. Renewal applications can be made online or by mail and must be submitted along with a renewal fee of $100 and proof of NCCPA certification before the expiration date. Renewed licenses are valid for two years. Maintaining NCCPA certification requires completing 100 credits of continuing medical education (CME) every two years and passing the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE) every tenth year. Last year there were 530 PAs working in New Mexico who earned an average salary of $78,950.