How to Become a Physician Assistant in New Mexico
As the healthcare industry has evolved, the need has arisen for a number of jobs within the field. One of the most in-demand professions is physician assistant, which is experiencing some of the fastest growth of jobs in healthcare. What makes the job intriguing to many is the opportunity to make a great salary while performing many of the same duties as physicians, but without having to attend medical school for many years. While there are employment opportunities throughout the United States for these jobs, some of the best are located in states such as New Mexico. For those people who may be interested in becoming a physician assistant in New Mexico, there are a number of tasks to complete.
When looking at physician assistant programs in New Mexico, students should make sure they complete an undergraduate degree that is related to healthcare if possible. While students can complete a Bachelor’s degree in any subject prior to applying to a physician assistant program, it is recommended that their undergraduate degree be in a field such as biology or chemistry. Once the Bachelor’s degree is completed, they can apply to physician assistant schools in New Mexico offering a Master’s degree as a Physician Assistant. The University of New Mexico offers a Master’s degree Physician Assistant program, which has an excellent reputation across the country. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, the program combines classroom and clinical studies over a two-year period. Students take classes in human anatomy, physiology, pathology, medical ethics and more. In addition, they can choose a specialty including family medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics or others.
Duties of a Physician Assistant
As stated earlier, physician assistants can perform many of the same duties as a doctor. They can perform physical exams, order diagnostic tests including blood work and x-rays, provide immunizations, prescribe medications, set broken bones and even assist with surgical procedures, sometimes being responsible for closing incisions and other operating room duties. All work is conducted under the supervision of a licensed physician, and before a physician assistant orders any tests or other procedures they must be approved by the supervising physician. In many areas of the country where physicians are scarce, such as rural areas, physician assistants often act as primary care physicians in clinics. However, they are still required to consult with doctors by phone or video conferencing prior to treating any patient.
Qualities of a Physician Assistant
People who make the best physician assistants have certain qualities such as compassion for others, excellent attention to detail and emotional stability. They should enjoy helping others, have excellent patient evaluation skills and work well in stressful conditions such as emergency rooms. The ability to remain calm, follow doctor’s orders and easily explain situations to patients and families is critical to succeeding in this profession.
Physician Assistant Certification and Licensure
After a student has completed their studies, they are eligible to become a certified physician assistant. To do so, they must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. The exam, which takes five hours to complete, consists of 300 questions and is known for being difficult. However, once passed a student can then use the title “Physician Assistant-Certified.” To maintain certification and licensure, up to 100 hours of continuing education must be taken annually, and every six years a recertification exam must be passed. Some states, including New Mexico, allow students to complete an alternative program combining previous experience and a take-home exam to maintain certification.
Physician Assistant Salary and Job Opportunities
Once a student has completed their educational program and gained certification, the work opportunities are almost endless. When it comes to a physician assistant salary New Mexico is very competitive with other states, offering one of the best salaries in the nation at $92,810 annually. After obtaining several years of experience, a physician assistant in New Mexico can expect to earn an average annual salary of over $130,000. Most jobs are located in hospitals or offices of doctors in private practice, and the most popular specialties for physician assistants include pediatrics and primary care. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for physician assistants is expected to be almost 40 percent between now and 2022, making it one of the most popular and in-demand jobs in healthcare.
For people who want a great job helping others without having to spend many years in medical school, a position as a physician assistant may be the perfect choice. Combining a great salary, the chance to specialize and to truly make a difference in the lives of patients and their families, a career as a physician assistant may prove to be fulfilling and exciting.