Is the Women's Health Nurse Practitioner a Dying Specialty?

It's commonly thought that any Nurse Practitioner specialty other than the Family Nurse Practitioner severely limits the marketability of that Nurse Practitioner. The reality is, that is not true! Check out this article to learn why. Specialties NP Article


Is the Women's Health Nurse Practitioner a Dying Specialty?

When researching Advanced Practice Registered Nursing (APRN) programs in 2022, it was quite difficult to locate a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) program that checked off some essential boxes:

  • distance-learning compatible
  • available as a post-graduate certificate or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
  • reputable
  • fully accredited

The abundance of Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) programs by far outweighed the availability of WHNP programs. Less WHNP programs also translate into fewer WHNP-credentialed APRNs compared to FNP-credentialed APRNs as well. Taking these facts into consideration sparked the question ...

Is the WHNP a dying specialty?

The short answer is NO! By 2031, the APRN career path as a whole is projected to grow by 40%. While only 2.2% of all practicing Nurse Practitioners (NPs) in the United States hold the Women's Health specialty certification, this number will continue to grow along with the APRN career path. It is difficult to gather precise statistics supporting the growth of WHNPs separate from other APRN tracks because many APRNs hold multiple certifications. Despite this, it is clear that other factors support the upward trend of this track.

WHNPs pride themselves in being advocates for all women's health. In the United States, people born female makeup slightly more than half the overall population. It's also worth noting that at least 20 million people in the United States currently identify as members of the LGBTQ community, which means gender-related studies and inclusivity are vital for promoting positive patient outcomes for this population. With the duality between constant advances in healthcare technology, healthcare reform, and major healthcare disparities like the Black maternal mortality crisis, both cis- and transgender women are actively and increasingly seeking specialized care from WHNPs. WHNPs can work in a variety of settings, such as fertility clinics, primary care outpatient clinics, health departments, hospitals, and more. The expansive nature of the settings they can work in provides increased access to care for women of all backgrounds and orientations. In addition, WHNPs can provide preventative care like Pap testing, breast and cervical cancer screenings, well-woman exams, fertility testing, postmenopausal care, and more.

Although FNP programs include some coursework in women's health, the actual WHNP specialty delves significantly deeper into women's health issues. It's commonly thought that the FNP specialty makes an APRN more marketable since they are not specialized in one area; however, this all depends entirely on where the APRN intends to work after program completion. For example, an NP who wishes to work in a fertility clinic may have the upper hand during recruiting if they completed a clinical rotation in a fertility clinic as part of one of their WHNP-specific courses versus an NP who was an FNP candidate and took more generic women's health courses. The career goals after program completion should be thoroughly vetted by the APRN candidate in order to make the choice that will most closely align with their goals.

It's important to note that although the specialties are different, there are still several similarities between FNP and WHNP in general. For one, the average salary for NPs in the United States, regardless of specialty, is about $124,680. Another is that both tracks will take anywhere from 2-3 years to complete depending on the program. Although FNPs pour blood, sweat, and tears into their programs just like other NPs, and many decide to specialize later on, specializing upfront like WHNPs do is a different type of commitment.

Just like a nurse will specialize in a certain modality early in their careers, like NICU or Med-Surg, it is perfectly fine for APRNs/NPs to specialize. Future APRNs deciding which specialty track they want to take should not be deterred into thinking they are limiting themselves by specializing too soon. If women's health calls to your heart, pursue the specialty upfront!


Are You Considering a Career as a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner?: American Association of Nurse Practitioners

United States Census Bureau

We Are Here: LGBTQ+ Adult Population in United States Reaches At Least 20 Million, According to Human Rights Campaign Foundation Report: The Human Rights Campaign

Quick Facts: Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

NP Fact Sheet: American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Working Together to Reduce Black Maternal Mortality: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Imperative for Transgender and Gender Nonbinary Inclusion: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2022/29-1171 Nurse Practitioners: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Quierra Rodriguez is a Georgia-based masters-prepared Registered Nurse currently advancing her career by pursuing her post-graduate certificate as a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner at Duke University. She has over 8 years of experience as an RN and has specialized in managed care.

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Specializes in Community health.

I love a good FNP, but I 100% prefer to see a specialist if possible!  I would love to see a WH NP for my gynecological care. I just graduated as a psychiatric NP, and I am so prepared to practice in my specialty. Of course FNPs get hired into psychiatric roles as well, but it isn't the same as having a specialist! 

Specializes in Managed Care, Hospital Revenue Cycle.

You're absolutely right! And congratulations on completing your psych NP!!