A Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) provides healthcare facilities to biological, transgender and intersex women throughout the span of their lives. These highly trained nurses care for women of all ages, with a focus on gynecology and obstetrics, along with primary care. If you want to learn about how to become a women’s health nurse practitioner in the US, the following guide will give you all the information you need. Here, you will find data about the education and experience requirements for this career, along with salary and job outlook data.
What is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner?
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners are medical professionals who provide comprehensive care to females throughout their lives. Many states allow these nurse practitioners to provide a complete range of medical services without the supervision of a doctor. The duties of a WHNP are holistic in nature, starting with the diagnosis of the disease. These professionals then move on to designing treatment plans for their patients and also address their physical and psychological needs. Like other Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners help patients deal with chronic health concerns and assist them with preventive healthcare maintenance.
What Does a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Do?
WHNP perform functions such as pelvic exams, breast cancer screenings, HPV and sexually transmitted disease screenings, health and wellness counseling, pregnancy testing, miscarriage care and support, menopause-related health and management, fertility evaluations, urinary tract infections and screening for heart diseases or other chronic illnesses, among other issues.
Where do Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners Work?
Women Health Nurse Practitioners can find work in a variety of medical settings such as Ambulatory OB-GYN Clinics, Home Healthcare Centers, Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Facilities, Prenatal Clinics, Private Practices, Infertility Clinics, Uro-gynecology Practices, Women’s Health Clinics and Women’s Prisons, among other places.
The work environment for a WHNP will depend on the place of their employment. However, it must be noted that due to the nature of their work, these nurse practitioners may come in close contact with infectious diseases. Therefore, they must follow strict health guidelines and protocols to guard against diseases or other dangers like patient outbursts or accidental needle pricks.
How to Become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner?
In order to become a women’s health nurse practitioner in the US, there are certain education and experience requirements that must be fulfilled. The following steps on how to become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner will help shed some light on this process.
A 4-year long Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is the minimum level of education required to get admission into a Masters degree. The coursework in this program would be heavily focused on science-related topics such as microbiology, psychology, pharmacology, neonatal health and physiology. It must be noted that some RN to MSN programs offer bridge coursework that would enable students with an associate degree in nursing to get enrolled in a master of science in nursing directly.
Before moving on to graduate studies, students will have to clear the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. This comprehensive exam tests candidates on their knowledge of healthcare management, health promotion, medical ethics and physiological integrity. The test takes up to 6 hours to complete.
Once you have become a registered nurse, the next step would be to get some hands-on experience. Most graduate level programs would require you to have at least 1 year of full-time clinical experience. Students are advised to get experience in the field that they intend to specialize in, which in this case would be women’s health. To get this clinical experience, students can find work in hospitals, offices of physicians, schools and outpatient care centers.
The length of this degree would vary according to your previous level of education and the institute you choose to enroll in. For instance, if you already have a bachelor of science in nursing degree, completing an MSN degree would take two to three years, depending on whether you are a full-time or part-time student. Please note that many accredited advanced nursing programs in women health would include clinical experiences in their coursework. This will help prepare students in handling a complete spectrum of duties relating to women’s health issues.
After the completion of a graduate degree, women’s health nurse practitioners typically pursue certification in a specialty area. Certifications are issued by several boards, such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners or the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The accrediting body that offers the certification for Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners is the National Certification Corporation. This certifying organization administers an exam which aspiring WHNPs must clear in order to earn their credential. In addition to that, to maintain the status of a WHNP, nurses will also have to invest their time and effort in continuing education courses every three years.
Once you have received your board certification, the next step would be to look for jobs. Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners may be able to find work in hospitals, clinics, offices of physicians, home healthcare centers and outpatient health centers. A good place to start the job search would be the databases of nurse practitioner job openings listed on the website of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
What Skills can help you become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner?
The job of a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner can be highly demanding at times. In order to keep up with the rigorous nature of this career path, aspiring nurses are advised to work on developing certain skills, such as communication skills, critical thinking skills and listening skills.
As a nurse practitioner, you should ideally have excellent listening and communication skills. Nurse practitioners spend a large part of their routine listening to and understanding the concerns of their patients, along with discussing potential medication and treatment plans.
Critical Thinking Skills
Diagnosing medical conditions and designing treatment plans requires a lot of effort and critical thinking. Nurse practitioners typically have very well-developed critical thinking skills.
Even though WHNP might work independently in most cases, they may have to collaborate with other medical personnel or their patients in the workplace.
Why are Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners Important?
The field of women’s health is very vast and comprehensive, which creates a high demand for medical professionals capable of taking care of female health issues. By becoming a WHNP, you would be taking care of various issues like work/life balance, nutrition, mental health and fitness, reproductive health, sexually transmitted diseases and so on.
With increasing maternal mortality rates in the US, there is no doubt about the fact that healthcare professionals dealing with women’s health issues will be high in demand. According to a report by the Center for Disease Control, nearly 700 women die each year in the US due to complications relating to pregnancy and childbirth. The factors that lead to these deaths include failures at the community, health facility, care provider and system levels. A women’s health nurse practitioner can play an important part in bringing these numbers down.
How much does a Women’s Health Practitioner Earn?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Practitioners made an annual mean income of $114,510 in May 2020. The top paying industry for these professionals were the BLS categories Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services, that paid an annual mean wage of $143,480, Religious Organizations, that paid an annual mean wage of $131,710 and Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Facilities, that paid an annual mean wage of $130,830 in May 2020.
In addition to industry, salary outlook for these medical professionals also varied as per the state of employment. For instance, the top paying state for nurse practitioners was California, which paid an annual mean wage of $145,970, followed by New Jersey, which paid an annual mean wage of $130,890, Washington, which paid an annual mean wage of $126,480, New York, which paid an annual mean wage of $126,440 and Massachusetts, which paid an annual mean wage of $126,050.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Becoming a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
WHNPs have a high degree of professional autonomy and can make many medical decisions without the supervision of a physician. In addition to that, the job of a WHNP can be highly rewarding, both emotionally and financially. Furthermore, the job outlook for this profession is expected to be very bright, creating thousands of new opportunities in the coming years.
It should be noted that in some cases WHNP programs are getting phased out for clinical nurse midwife degrees. In addition to that, the training and education for this career path can be very demanding. The job itself can take a toll on the health of the medical professional, with problems such as fatigue and burnout being common.