Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Role
A women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP) provides primary health care services to women of all ages, generally beginning at adolescence and continuing through pregnancy and menopause. The WHNP has a specialization in obstetrics and gynecology but also engages in well-woman care, health education, prenatal care and contraceptive counseling as well as providing care for episodic or chronic illnesses, eating disorders and sexually transmitted diseases.
Some women’s health nurse practitioners are heavily involved with diagnosis and treatment, while others function as advisers to women who want to plan a healthy pregnancy, offering advice from pre-conception through the postpartum period. In short, the WHNP is not defined by any single role and may provide essential health care to women throughout the life span.
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice
The WHNP has the opportunity to provide care in a variety of clinical settings. Women’s health nurse practitioners work in hospitals, OB-GYN clinics, family planning clinics, Planned Parenthood centers, women’s health clinics, prenatal clinics, women’s prisons and private practices.
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Salary
Salaries for women’s health nurse practitioners are higher than those of RNs without a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). On average, women’s health nurse practitioner jobs pay $96,000 per year, depending on years of experience, geographic location, clinical setting and any additional certifications.
The job outlook for women’s health nurse practitioners is positive. Many health care facilities recognize the extensive clinical experience nurse practitioners bring to women’s care, at a cost significantly lower than full-time physicians, and offer lucrative benefits and bonus packages to attract qualified candidates.
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How to Become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Eligibility Requirements
Prior education, certification and clinical practice are among the requirements for acceptance into a nurse practitioner program. Here is a step-by-step guide to becoming a women’s health nurse practitioner.
- Become a registered nurse. In order to apply to a women’s health nurse practitioner program, you must have completed a degree in registered nursing and be certified as a registered nurse in a U.S. state or territory. Passing the NCLEX-RN examination is required for certification as a registered nurse. Working one to two years before applying for a nurse practitioner program is highly recommended.
- Apply to WHNP programs that meet National Certification Corporation (NCC) requirements. These programs must be master’s, postgraduate or doctoral programs. (Additional information on WHNP programs and coursework requirements is provided below.)
- Apply to take the women’s health nurse practitioner exam administered by the NCC. The exam tests comprehension of physical assessment, primary care, gynecology, obstetrics, pharmacology and professional issues. A copy of your diploma and your official transcript documenting completion of a women’s health nurse practitioner program are required. More information about certification can be found at the bottom of this page.
- Apply for certification as a WHNP in the state in which you wish to practice. Go to our state certification pages to find out what the requirements are and how to apply. Many applications can be submitted online.
- Certification must be renewed every three years. In addition to renewing certification through the board, renewal through the state is also required and additional fulfillment of continuing education contact hours may be necessary.
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Programs
Women’s health nurse practitioner education programs are designed to meet the requirements of the NCC certification exam while providing an opportunity for the student to specialize in a particular area of women’s health. According to the NCC competency statement, graduates of women’s health nurse practitioner education programs should be able to obtain a gynecologic history from their patients, identify gynecological health issues and provide management and education support for family planning, fertility control, and prenatal and postpartum care.
The two basic components of women’s health nurse practitioner education programs are coursework and a clinical preceptorship. The coursework will vary depending on the chosen specialty, but the core classes will include advanced physiology, advanced pharmacology and advanced health screening. All other coursework will cover research fundamentals, statistics, ethics and women’s health issues. Students should be prepared to complete 40 to 60 credits for the Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.
The clinical component of the curriculum also varies according to the student’s preferences, but the main requirement is that the preceptorship provide the student with training specific to their chosen specialty, such as an OB/GYN nurse or a midwife. The amount of hours and the type of work required to satisfy the clinical component of the curriculum varies by institution. The NCC does not have a minimum requirement of hours for the women’s health nurse practitioner certification.
Admission requirements for women’s health nurse practitioner education programs are relatively standard. Students are required to have at least two years of work experience as an RN as well as a valid RN certification. Applicants should check with individual universities about minimum GPA requirements and GRE scores.
After graduation, students should be prepared to sit for the national certification exam administered by the NCC. Graduates who successfully pass the exam are awarded the WHNP credentials. The basic eligibility requirements for taking the exam include current licensure as an RN in the U.S. or Canada and successful completion of a women’s health nurse practitioner program since 2005. The certification examination evaluates students’ knowledge of advanced After graduation, students should be prepared to sit for the national certification exam administered by the NCC. Graduates who successfully pass the exam are awarded the WHNP credentials. The basic eligibility requirements for taking the exam include current licensure as an RN in the U.S. or Canada and successful completion of a women’s health nurse practitioner program since 2005. The certification examination evaluates students’ knowledge of advanced
The length of women’s health nurse practitioner programs will vary depending upon the student’s degree program. Students with a BSN who enroll full time can expect to spend 18 to 24 months earning the MSN. Students with a postmaster’s degree can complete the program more quickly and part-time students will take longer. The exact schedule will depend on the individual student’s availability. Students interested in earning a doctorate (DNP) can expect to spend two to three years in the program.
Online Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Programs
For working RNs who do not want to put their careers on pause or uproot their lives to attend an on-campus program at a university far from where they live, online women’s health nurse practitioner programs can be a flexible and high-quality option. When looking for an online WHNP program, make sure that it offers interactive features such as live classes, rigorous coursework and excellent placement services that will help you get the most out of your education. Some universities offer online programs that are identical to their on-campus programs, allowing students to earn a degree from a university they know and whose reputation they trust, without having to relocate. Online programs are growing in popularity and are a great way to become a women’s health nurse practitioner.
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Certification
National Certification Corporation (NCC) (Source: NCC)