If you’re a nurse practitioner or considering becoming one, you may be wondering if you have to work in primary care or if you can work in a specialty like women’s health. In health care, the demand for skilled women’s health providers continues to grow. These professionals are specially trained to care for women throughout their lives, learn the risk factors for common female health conditions, and treat these conditions to help women enjoy the best quality of life. A women’s health nurse practitioner can play an important role in this aspect of the healthcare industry.
What is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WNHP)?
A women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse (RN) who has specific training in caring for the needs of women. The many different factors that can come into play in women’s health care, including obstetrics, gynecology, fertility, and maternal-fetal medicine, require specialized training. These specially trained professionals are prepared to help with:
- gynecological care
- pregnancy care
- Pregnancy risk management
- postnatal care
- STI diagnosis and treatment
- Family planning and fertility
- Women’s oncology diagnosis and care
- Primary care for women
With the advanced training and clinical experience that a WHNP degree gives a nurse, many states allow these professionals to work on their own. All states allow them to diagnose and treat illnesses and conditions in their patients, referring doctors only for more complicated patient care, such as high-risk pregnancies. This advanced training enables a nurse practitioner to prescribe medications and perform many procedures; however, WHNPs do not deliver babies. In many states, nurse practitioners are free to practice independently, although some states require that they work in conjunction with a physician.
Importance of WHNPs in Healthcare
Women have a wide range of health needs that require specialized care. In addition to basic primary care, the complexities of the female reproductive system can cause a wide range of health problems unique to women. Pregnancy and reproductive health drive much of the demand for nurses trained in women’s health care.
Growing demand for WHNP
More than half of the current population of the United States you are a woman. This means that there is already an increased demand for trained women’s health care providers. furthermore, theCDC states women are more likely to visit the doctor than men. This combination means that WHNPs are in higher demand than other types of nurse practitioners and primary care providers.
Practice Areas for Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners
A women’s health nurse practitioner fulfills a vital role within the health field with the specialized training she receives in women’s health. There are multiple practice areas for a WHNP to consider. These include:
Primary care nurse practitioners provide care for common medical problems. This doctor is one of the first providers a woman will see when she has a health problem, even if that problem requires a more specific level of care. This practitioner is also the one people will see for colds, viruses, and basic injuries. They can diagnose illnesses, prescribe medications, and refer patients to specialized care when necessary.
Prenatal and postpartum care
Prenatal care is vital to help create positive outcomes for mothers and their babies, and this type of care requires special training in pregnancy and childbirth. The skills and care of a trained nurse have a great impact on pregnancy outcomes, especially for very young or older mothers. Pregnant women can experience a number of complications that require an expert hand, such as diabetes, anemia, and emotional problems.
An NP trained in women’s health is often the person who performs prenatal and postnatal care. While these providers must transfer care to a physician for high-risk, complicated, or surgical deliveries, the vast majority of pregnancies are perfectly placed to receive care from a WHNP. Many OB/GYN practices will employ both a physician and a nurse practitioner to enable them to care for all types of mothers who come to their offices.
After a baby is born, women need specialized care to recover from childbirth and manage breastfeeding and other concerns about caring for the baby. A WHNP provides postnatal care to ensure complete healing after birth and to diagnose postnatal problems.
Life care during menopause
The need for skilled nursing supervision does not end after the childbearing years. Women also need this care when they enter menopause. The changes in hormones that women experience as they age can cause a wide range of health problems. While these are not necessarily health problems, they can be treated by a properly trained provider to make this life change more comfortable.
Also, women who are not pregnant but who are in menopause need regular checkups for problems such as ovarian and cervical cancer, thyroid conditions, and osteoporosis. While a primary care provider can perform these checkups, someone trained in women’s health will be more adept at spotting early warning signs, and many women feel more comfortable and confident working with a specialist for these types of appointments. Again, this is where a trained WHNP can help.
General wellness and preventative care
One of the passions of many nurse practitioners is not only diagnosing illness, but also helping patients avoid illness through proper preventive care and general wellness education. As part of their practice, these health professionals will teach women what they need to do to prevent disease and enjoy better overall health. By providing patients with insight into their overall health, a WHNP can help women live longer, healthier lives.
These professionals also help screen for depression, anxiety, and domestic abuse. These common mental and emotional health issues can be difficult to spot, and the right training can help these professionals spot subtle signs so they can get the right help for their patients.
Women’s health nurse practitioners must complete the appropriate certification to ensure they are well-versed in women’s health. This begins with the WHNP exam from the National Certification Corporation. These nurses will also need to apply for WHNP certification in their state. The qualityWomen’s Health Nurse Practitioner Degree Programwill provide instructions to prepare a nurse for these certification exams.
How to become a women’s health nurse practitioner
Wondering how to become a WHNP? Because this is a specialty approach in medicine, there is a specific set of steps to follow. These are:
1. Become a registered nurse
Women’s health nurse practitioner programs require applicants to be registered nurses. You must pass the NCLEX-RN exam and become certified in your particular state. Most programs appreciate working with nurses who have worked for at least a year as an RN before applying. Always check with the program you are pursuing to see what prerequisites of work experience and training it requires.
2. Apply to your program
After completing your RN training and getting some work experience under your belt, you can apply for a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner training program. theMaster of Science in Nursing, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner programfrom Keizer University is an excellent choice. It is the only master’s program for this specialty in the state of Florida and is available as a fully online program. Most students can complete the program in 30 months, and you can continue to work while you learn.
3. Get certified
The final step in becoming a WHNP is to become certified. You will need to pass the National Certification Corporation exam and the state exam in your state. Once you’ve done both, you’ll be ready to start working with women to help them enjoy a higher quality of life, better pregnancy outcomes, and healthier aging.
If working with women at all stages of life appeals to you, then consider becoming a women’s health nurse practitioner. Contact Keizer University for more information on ourWHNP MSN Programtoday, and see how you can use our training to improve your skills and make you a more effective nurse for women of all ages.