For registered nurses and other healthcare professionals in New Mexico (NM), becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) can open up opportunities in a high-growth, lucrative career. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2016) anticipated a 36 percent increase in openings for NPs across the country between 2016 and 2026, much more robust than the average growth predicted across all occupations during that time (7 percent). This is roughly on par with the projected growth in NP openings in NM at 32 percent, according to Projections Central (Nov. 2016). With the expected addition of 290 NPs in the Land of Enchantment, there’s evidence of a thriving employment climate on into the future.
Furthermore, NPs in New Mexico make relatively generous salaries. In fact, the 850 working NPs in the state currently make an average annual salary of $104,580, more than double the average wage of all professions in the state at $44,160 (BLS May 2016). In short, NPs in New Mexico are expected to enjoy generous salaries and high employment prospects in the years to come.
Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses with a graduate education, achieving skills beyond licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses. A master’s of science in nursing (MSN) degree is the minimum education needed to become an NP, but for those seeking leadership positions or professorships at universities, earning a doctor of nursing practice (DNP)—the terminal degree of the discipline—may be advisable. Also, several prominent organizations including the Institute of Medicine and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) are actively advocating for doctoral-level preparation and full practice in the nursing field. In fact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has proposed that the DNP be the entry-level educational standard for advanced practice nurses by 2020. One exemplary option to this end is available at New Mexico State University, which has discontinued its MSN program in favor of a BSN-to-DNP pathway, discussed below.
Luckily for these healthcare professionals, NPs enjoy the privilege of a ‘full practice’ environment in New Mexico. The AANP states that in these areas, ‘..licensure law provides for all nurse practitioners to evaluate patients, diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests, initiate and manage treatments—including prescribe medications—under the exclusive licensure authority of the state board of nursing.’ Compared to ‘reduced’ or ‘restricted practice’ environments, NPs in NM are able to work to the full extent of their education. Finally, NPs in this state also have a vibrant professional association to support them in their work; the New Mexico Nurse Practitioner Council offers a wealth of resources, including continuing education events; legislative advocacy (local, state & national); and professional networking.
This guide examines one possible pathway to becoming an NP, providing a comprehensive look at the online NP programs in New Mexico and how to become professionally licensed in the state.
Some aspiring NPs in New Mexico begin their careers by completing an associate degree in nursing (ADN) and gaining experience as a registered nurse in a healthcare environment; however, for those interested in online NP programs, it may be advisable to pursue a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) as this stage instead. This is because a majority of online NP programs in NM and beyond require applicants to have completed at least a BSN prior to enrollment.
Obtaining licensure in New Mexico now requires submitting an electronic application through the New Mexico Board of Nursing. As of November 2016, paper applications at the registered nurse (RN) licensure level were no longer accepted. Here is one possible pathway to joining this high-paying and high-growth career in NM:
STEP 1: Undergraduate Nursing Education (2 to 4 years)
A certificate program, an ADN, or a BSN can prepare aspiring NPs for this career. Certificates and associate degree programs typically take two years or less to complete, while a bachelor’s is generally a four-year program. As mentioned above, a BSN may be preferable as it involves more direct preparation to join this career, particularly for those interested in distance-based NP programs. BSN programs typically feature hands-on clinical training, as well as coursework in areas such as anatomy & physiology; nutrition, health & wellness; biological chemistry; and pathophysiology, among other subjects. As part of an undergraduate program in nursing, students also receive preparation to take the NCLEX-RN examination—the main national credentialing exam—through the New Mexico Board of Nursing (BoN). To ensure eligibility for licensure, nursing students are strongly advised to seek out programs accredited by one of two entities: the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). To learn more about this program-approval process, check out the ‘accreditation’ section below.
STEP 2: RN Licensure & Experience (1 to 2 years)
There are several steps to obtain RN licensure in New Mexico. First, candidates must complete an electronic application and submit a non-refundable application fee ($110). Additionally, nursing students must:
At this stage, RNs typically garner at least one year of experience prior to applying to a graduate program in nursing.
STEP 3: Graduate NP Education (2 to 4 years)
As mentioned above, aspiring NPs need to have at least a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) degree or a post-master’s certificate to qualify for NP credentialing, although others may pursue a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), the terminal academic degree in the field. These advanced nursing degree programs typically include between 500 and 1,000 clinical practice hours in one of six specializations: adult-gerontology (acute or primary care), pediatrics (acute or primary care), neonatal care, women’s health, family care, or psychiatric-mental health. Core coursework across all specializations at the graduate level generally features instruction in evidence-based practice; nursing theory; population-based healthcare; biostatistics; and an original thesis or capstone project.
STEP 4: Obtain Specialized NP Certification (Less than 1 year)
Prior to seeking NP licensure in New Mexico, candidates must first achieve certification in one’s chosen specialty. To qualify for this national credential, NPs typically must send official graduate-level transcripts from an accredited MSN, post-master’s, or DNP program; show proof of at least 500 clinical hours in one’s NP subfield; pass a comprehensive examination; and pay an application fee. The main NP certification agencies at the national level are:
To learn more about this process, please check out the ‘specialization’ section of the main online NP programs page.
STEP 5: Obtain Nurse Practitioner License (Less than 1 year)
Finally, to qualify for state licensure as a nurse practitioner, candidates must submit the following to the New Mexico Board of Nursing:
Not surprisingly, admissions requirements for online NP programs vary from school to school. Prior to applying to any distance-based program, students everywhere are advised to verify the ‘state authorization’ status of their program, particularly if it’s based in a different state. Since restrictions governing who can enroll in an online program vary, this is crucial to ensure that there’s not a mismatch between a student’s state of residence and where an institution is based. Here are some other common application requirements for online NP school candidates:
Some online NP programs require admission to both the graduate school and the nursing school. One example is the DNP program at New Mexico State University (NMSU), which is discussed below.
Requirements for the various online NP programs at NMSU vary, but those interested in the BSN-to-DNP program need to have at least a 3.0 GPA at the undergraduate level. In fact, this GPA is the minimum for admission to a majority of online NP programs, especially at the MSN level, and many distance-based DNP programs call for at least a 3.2 GPA. Those NMSU applicants who are around or just below the 3.0 mark may be advised to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), according to the school website. Favorable scores on the GRE (i.e., above the 80th percentile) could enhance a person’s candidacy for the program. Similarly, those seeking admission into the school’s post-master’s certificate program should have a minimum 3.0 GPA in their graduate-level program.
A candidate interview is key to the admission process at NMSU, although interviews are not required for all online NP schools. Other typical requirements for admission include sending proof of having an encumbered RN license, as well as a letter of intent, a current resume, letters of recommendation, and completion of an upper-division inferential statistics course. Those considering a post-master’s certificate program—ideal for those seeking a new certification or a change in specializations—also may need to have national NP certification and an advanced practice nursing license. Other typical admissions requirements for online NP programs include writing a personal statement (500-600 words) and sending proof of at least one year of experience.
Program accreditation at any level is important to ensure that one’s education meets quality standards in its facilities, curriculum, and student outcomes, among other measures. It is also necessary to graduate from an accredited school or program to qualify for NP credentialing. Most NP programs are accredited through one of two agencies:
Please note that New Mexico State University (discussed below) is CCNE-accredited.
New Mexico State University of Las Cruces, is the sole NM-based program to offer online NP education. There are numerous programs across the country as well which provide accredited, online nurse practitioner education to registered nurses in New Mexico; these out-of-state, distance-based NP programs typically offer web-based learning and the opportunity to complete clinical hours locally, pending approval from the school (it's important to verify this with the school prior to applying).
At this Las Cruces-based school, there are online post-master’s certificates, as well as distance-based BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP nurse practitioner programs. As of 2018, there were two NP specializations available: family and psychiatric-mental health. Core classes across all specializations include advanced pathophysiology; nursing assessment; clinical pharmacology; and health policy for advanced practice, among others. Please note that the BSN-to-DNP program requires one week-long campus immersion session annually, and is only available for full-time students. The MSN-to-DNP and post-master's certificate NP programs may be completed part-time or full-time.
The nursing school is committed to assisting the surrounding communities, and many students participate in community service work both in Las Cruces and the rest of the state. Furthermore, the DNP program, which was the first one throughout the state of New Mexico, was recently ranked 92nd in the nation in a 2017 rating published by U.S. News & World Report.
Please note that the Albuquerque-based University of New Mexico also provides MSN, post-master’s, and DNP programs in four specializations: adult-gerontology (acute care), psychiatric-mental health, family health, and pediatrics. These programs offer much of the non-clinical coursework online, although due to extensive on-campus requirements, these cannot be considered ‘online NP programs.’
To learn about the gamut of distance-based NP programs based throughout the U.S. and open to various points of academic entry, specializations, and degree outcomes, please visit the main online NP programs page.
Many online NP programs require at least one on-campus visit to meet fellow students and program professors, as well as to get intensive hands-on instruction in the field. As mentioned above, online NP students at New Mexico State University need to be on campus once a year for a mandatory week-long program. Notification for these sessions is given as far in advance as possible.
No matter which program they should attend, online NP students in New Mexico are encouraged to verify the number of campus visits required prior to enrolling.
Clinical hours and preceptorships for online NP programs are typically completed locally in a student’s community, assuming they have preapproval from their school in advance. It is best to be clear on expectations before starting a program. For example, it is not specified where students of New Mexico State University’s NP programs are allowed to complete their clinical hours, but details can be retrieved from the nursing school directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, as mentioned in the introduction, New Mexico is a state where NPs have been granted ‘full practice’ authority, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). This means that NPs in New Mexico can evaluate, diagnose, and interpret diagnostic tests, as well as prescribe medication, as long as they have met all of the requirements of the state board of nursing. Full practice authority offers these professionals more legal autonomy on the job, which can be empowering for any NP hoping to practice to the richest extent of his or her education.