Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Overview
- What You Will Do: Perform diagnostics, write prescriptions, perform patient exams, order patient lab tests, insert long-acting reversible contraception, advocate for preventative care, provide reproductive and sexual health, teach patients
- Where Will You Work: private practices, hospitals, reproductive health clinics, universities, community health clinics, prisons
- Employment Projections: From 2016 to 2026 the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) profession is anticipated to increase by 31 percent.
- How Much Will I Earn: WHNPs in general make between $85,000 and $110,000.
- Number of Programs: 48 universities have WHNP programs in the U.S.
- How Long Does It Take to Become an WHNP: With a BSN becoming a WHNP will take around 2 to 3 years. An RN-BSN program or RN to MSN program will take around 2 to 3 years.
- Requirements to Become One: You need a bachelor’s degree, an RN license, a master’s in nursing, certification as a Nurse Practitioner, and a license in your state of practice.
Eight Steps to Become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
- Earn Your RN – Complete an RN program at a university accredited through the CCNE or ACEN. This is important if you want to be fully accepted into your MSN program. See our BSN guide for more information.
- Pass The NCLEX-RN Exam – Studying effectively and taking NCLEX practice tests will help you pass the NCLEX-RN exam on the first try. Check out our NCLEX-RN study guide.
- Earn Your MSN – You will have courses in reproductive and sexual health, women’s health nursing theory, research, health assessment, disease management, preventative care and more.
- Complete Supervised Clinical Hours – You need to complete at least 600 supervised clinical hours during your master’s program.
- Become Board Certified – Get certified as a WHNP through the National Certification Corporation (NCC).
- Obtain Licensure – Get a Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) license in the state you want to work in.
- Obtain a DEA Number – Obtain DEA registration to prescribe medication.
- Maintain Active Certification and Licensure –CE requirements vary from 10 to 50 hours depending on your assessment test results. You must keep active BLS and DEA licenses. Your RN license must stay active in your state.
What is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner?
WHNPs are a type of Advanced Practice Nurse (APRN) that provide comprehensive direct patient care to women throughout their lifespan. Although specialized in women’s health, WHNPs also provide sexual and reproductive health care to men. Your daily activities include conducting patient interviews and examinations, diagnosing, prescribing medication, referring patients, ordering and interpreting laboratory tests, and providing patient education. As a WHNP you can care for people with chronic and acute conditions, care for adolescents, pregnant women, and the older adult population. WHNPs can work in primary care clinics, or specialty clinics such as breast and gynecologic oncology, urogynecology, fertility clinics, and more.
How Do I Become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner?
You need a bachelor’s degree as well as a master’s in nursing to be a WHNP. There are many ways you can achieve this. Pathways to becoming an NP exist for people with or without RN licensure.
- BSN to MSN: With a BSN you can complete a 2-year master’s in nursing program.
- Bachelors to MSN: Direct Entry Master’s in Nursing programs exist for people who have a bachelor’s degree in something other than nursing. You will have to complete a certain number of pre-requisite courses in the hard sciences, anatomy and physiology, and psychology in order to enter one of these programs. Direct Entry Master’s programs take 2 to 3 years to complete.
- BSN to DNP: For a doctorate in nursing practice (DNP) you will have about 4 years of schooling. A DNP is a doctorate degree that will prepare you for applying evidence based research into clinical practice.
- MSN to DNP: MSN to DNP programs enable you to get your doctorate in 2 to 3 years.
Certification and Licensure: Becoming certified ensures that you meet the qualifications to care for patients within the women’s health population. The NCC offers the exam that you will take to obtain certification. After you obtain national certification you will take an assessment on the NCC website that will tell how many CEs you must complete before the end of the 3-year maintenance cycle. Required CEs will vary between 10 and 50 hours. Once you are certified you can apply for state licensure. A CNP license is needed to legally practice in a given state. To become licensed you will need to submit transcripts from your WHNP program, proof of RN licensure, proof of NCC certification, and pay a fee.
Where Do WHNPs Typically Work?
There are multiple practice settings where you can work as a WHNP. You can work in community health clinics, university health clinics, correctional facilities, private practices, obstetric and gynecology clinics, fertility clinics, urogynecology, breast and gynecologic oncology clinics and more.
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners Salary Expectations?
Your salary will be influenced by the state, city and practice setting where you work, as well as your experience. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nurse practitioners earn a median of $104,610 per year. According to various sources WHNPs can make between $85,500 and $110,000. If you work in an urban area you will likely make more than if you work in a rural area. Likewise, a community health setting will pay less than a private practice, but may offer additional benefits. By working with medically underserved populations you can be eligible for loan forgiveness. The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program is one way that you can get loan forgiveness. If you have a Perkins loan you can also be eligible for Perkins Loan Forgiveness. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is another service you may qualify for if you work in an underserved area. With more experience your salary can increase.
Online WHNP Programs
Online programs have made becoming a WHNP a reality for many busy people. Coursework can be completed online with minimal to no time required on campus. Clinical hours can be arranged close to where you live an in a schedule that is convenient for you.
What is a Typical WHNP Curriculum?
There are certain course that are standard among every WHNP program, but the names of the courses may vary a bit by university. Like what is offered Boston College’s WHNP program course will include:
- Ethical Issues in Advanced Practice Nursing
- Conceptual Basis for Advanced Practice Nursing
- Role of the Advanced Practice Nurse
- Advanced Pharmacology
- Advanced Health Assessment
- Research Methods for Advanced Practice Nursing
- Advanced Pathophysiology
- Women’s Health Advanced Practice Nursing
- Family Theory
The Role of the WHNP in the Primary Care Provider Shortage
The Affordable Care Act has shifted healthcare focus in the U.S. to preventative and primary care. As the baby boomer population ages the need for primary care providers is increasing. There is an expected sharp increase in demand for primary care providers between 2013 and 2025. A cost-effective way to meet this need is employing WHNPs to provide primary care and focus on sexual and reproductive health.
Number of WHNP Programs in the United States
There are 48 WHNP programs in the U.S. with 2 of them being online through Old Dominion University in Virginia, and Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania.
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Resources
- American Nurses Credentialing Center
- American Association of Nurse Practitioners
- National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties
Denisco, S. M., Barker, A. M., (2016). Advanced practice nursing: Essential knowledge for the profession. Burlington, MA: Jones and Barlett Learning.