Women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) who specialize in comprehensive healthcare for women across the lifespan. This includes well-woman care, reproductive and gynecological care, and obstetrical (prenatal and postpartum) care. Similar to other nurse practitioners, WHNPs focus on health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, health restoration, and health education.
Although WHNPs are qualified to provide care related to a woman’s reproductive health, they also serve as primary healthcare providers, delivering services to women from adolescence through menopause and beyond.
Their expertise allows them to assess any issues or conditions related to pregnancy, birth, and menopause, including acute and stable chronic health problems. Just a few of the gynecological issues that women’s health NPs address include sexual dysfunction, infertility, and sexually transmitted infections. These healthcare practitioners also provide treatment for a wide range of health problems affecting women, such as osteoporosis, migraines, and depression.
A women’s health NP’s daily job responsibilities include providing primary and specialty care services for women, which include:
- Conducting physical examinations
- Interpreting medical histories
- Ordering and performing diagnostic tests and procedures
- Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic illnesses
- Counseling and educating patients on gynecological and obstetrical issues
- Performing minor surgeries and procedures
- Providing prenatal care, family planning services, and screening services
Earning a Masters in Nursing – Women’s Health
Similar to other APRNs, women’s health nurse practitioners must achieve a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from a Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)-accredited college or university in order to become nationally certified and state licensed.
Although the traditional route to earning an MSN involves first completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and earning licensure as a Registered Nurse (RN), many institutions offer a variety of entry options for candidates who do not possess a BSN. For example, students may pursue one of the following MSN programs:
- RN-to-MSN programs: Designed for practicing RNs who possess an associate’s degree; includes completing both BSN and MSN components at an accelerated pace
- Entry-level (also referred to as generic or accelerated) MSN programs: Designed for students with a bachelor’s or graduate degree in a discipline other than nursing; includes completing BSN and MSN components and earning an RN license, often at an accelerated pace
Traditional MSN programs generally require students to possess a BSN, a valid RN license, and at least a few years of experience in the nursing field prior to admission.
A number of institutions also offer dual master’s degree programs, designed for nurses seeking a graduate degree with an in-depth concentration in a related field, such as:
- Business – MSN/MBA
- Public health – MSN/MPH
- Health administration – MSN/MHA
- Public administration – MSN/MPA
Further, many programs offer flexible schedules, part-time study, and distance learning options to accommodate today’s working student.
MSN Degree-Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner: Curriculum and Content
The MSN in Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner prepares nurses to deliver primary care to women throughout their lives. These programs include in-depth study in theory, pathophysiology, research, pharmacotherapeutics, and clinical decision-making skills, with an emphasis on the primary care of women, including their reproductive and gynecologic health.
The curriculum addresses a wide range of health issues for women, including normal pregnancy, prenatal management, fetal evaluation, clinical management of family planning, well women healthcare, and menopause, among others.
Core courses in an MSN degree in Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner include:
- Management of acute and chronic illnesses
- Issues in women’s health
- Mental health issues in advanced practice nursing
- Well women healthcare
- Healthcare of women and primary care
- Healthcare of the childbearing woman
- Complementary/alternative therapies in women’s health
- Fetal health
Students complete clinical experiences in a variety of settings with diverse populations of women in MSN -Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner programs. Clinical sites often include: public health clinics, oncology treatment centers, HIV clinics, and infertility clinics, just to name a few.
MSN Degree-Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner: Professional Requirements
Upon completing an MSN – Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, graduates must take and pass the National Certification Corporation’s Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner examination to become nationally certified and eligible for state licensure as a women’s health NP.
This national certification examination consists of the following components:
- Physical assessment and diagnostic testing
- Primary care
- Professional issues (patient safety, ethical principles, evidence-based practice, etc.)
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Jobs and Salary Expectations
Women’s health nurse practitioners care for a broad range of patients in practice settings that include:
- Primary care centers
- Adolescent health centers
- Private practices
- Government organizations
- Community health organizations
- Fertility clinics
WHNPs may also focus their work in women’s health on a number of areas, including:
- Cardiovascular care
- Critical care
- Emergency services
- Occupational health
- Infectious diseases
- Women’s primary care
- Reproductive health
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), about 5 percent of all nurse practitioners worked in women’s health as of September 2015.
According to an AANP survey, women’s health nurse practitioners earned a base salary of $83,480 and total compensation of $91,730 in 2011, an increase from a base salary of $79,690 and total compensation of $87,520 in 2008.