Women's Health Nurse Practitioner: Job Description, Salary, and How to Become One

Women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who specialize in the comprehensive care of women, trans and cis-gendered, across their lifespans. Articles Careers

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For registered nurses (RNs) interested in women's health and wellness, pursuing a graduate degree in women's health nurse practitioner (WHNP) may offer numerous benefits and career opportunities.

A WHNP focuses on obstetric, reproductive health, and primary care services. They are health care providers across the lifespan of women's health, providing care and information regarding family planning, perinatal health, preventative care, and menopause.

WHNP Job Description

A WHNP's scope of practice includes primary care roles, including diagnostic care and treatment, and education on managing chronic health issues, disease processes, health promotion, and disease prevention strategies for patients and their families.

WHNPs may be involved with diagnosing life-changing diseases such as breast, cervical, or ovarian cancer and are there to support patients through treatments.

WHNPs also assess patient health care needs beyond physical symptoms and incorporate psychosocial, mental, and environmental assessments. Their family-centered approach allows them to provide holistic care, contributing to improved patient outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.

Almost all aspects of women's health are covered by WHNPs, including postpartum care, except for pregnancy and delivery, conducted by certified nurse midwives. Depending on the state in which WHNPs practice, oversight by physicians may or may not be required.

WHNPs often develop long-lasting relationships with their patients and have a greater scope of practice than RNs, which allows them to work independently. They also have more career opportunities due to their advanced education, including working in educator or managerial roles.

Related: 10 Best Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs in 2023

WHNP Responsibilities

Since WHNPs care for women throughout their life spans, they have a broad spectrum of responsibilities:

  • Conducting well-woman exams
  • Reviewing preventive health needs
  • Educating and prescribing available contraception
  • Inserting long-acting reversible contraception such as Intrauterine devices and Implanted devices
  • Educating and counseling on unexpected pregnancies
  • Ordering and interpreting blood and imaging tests
  • Addressing infertility concerns
  • Sexually transmitted infection diagnosis, treatment, and education
  • Managing women through the perinatal period, such as confirming/dating pregnancy; educating on pregnancy health; performing ultrasounds; and monitoring fetal activity
  • Menopause education and counseling
  • Intimacy and sexual health
  • Screening for domestic violence, substance abuse, and high-risk behaviors
  • Diagnosing female-related disease processes
  • Performing primary care procedures like pap smears and endometrial biopsies
  • May work alongside OBGYNs as a first assistant during surgical procedures

WHNP Work Environments

  • Primary care clinics
  • Women's health clinics
  • Student health centers
  • Community health centers
  • Hospitals

WHNP Salary

Salary amounts for WHNPs can fluctuate due to location, the nurse's experience level, any additional certifications held, and the employing organization. According to PayScale, WHNPs make an average salary of approximately $91,270 annually, ranging between $72,000 and $113,000 annually.

According to the most recent data (May 2022) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the top-paying states for nurse practitioners, in general, are:

  • California - $158,130
  • New Jersey - $143,250
  • Massachusetts - $138,700
  • Oregon - $136,250
  • Nevada - $136,230

While the BLS does not list data specifically for women's health nurse practitioners, advanced-practice nurses generally have a promising career outlook. Because of the physician shortage, aging population, and healthcare legislation, the demand for nurse practitioners is expected to rise 26 percent by 2028.

How to Become a WHNP

The first step to becoming a WHNP is to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. After completing the degree, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain RN licensure in your state.

RNs can then choose between the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) pathways to complete their WHNP education. Both programs provide the foundation for advanced practice in women's health.

An MSN WHNP program comprises advanced general nursing and specialty women's health courses. The curriculum may include Advanced Nursing Assessment, Antepartum Care, and Advanced Management of Women's Health classes.

Related: 10 Fastest Doctor of Nursing (DNP) Programs in 2023

The WHNP DNP program takes the MSN curriculum further, offering more courses and focusing on nursing leadership. Classes in this program may include Simulation for Women's Health Care Providers, Pharmacology, Childbearing Complications, and Gynecologic Management.

After graduation from an NP Program, nurses can write the NP certification exam. The Women's Health Nurse Practitioner board certification (WHNP-BC) is awarded through the National Certification Corporation (NCC). To meet the requirements for the certificate, you'll need to have fulfilled the following:

  • Hold a BSN degree from an accredited college or university
  • Possess an active and unrestricted RN license
  • Have completed an accredited graduate NP Program that meets NCC program requirements
  • Certification exam must be completed within eight years of graduating from the graduate degree program

Another component of maintaining your status as a WHNP is staying current on the constantly evolving standards and best practices in the industry through continuing education credits. Continuing education for women's health nurses varies by state but is required by most for license renewal.

A WHNP can be a fulfilling career choice because you'll make a difference in the health of women of all ages and stages of life.

Editorial Team / Admin

Carly Elliott has 9 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Hospice Palliative Care and Home Health.

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