Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

What Is a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner?

A women's health nurse practitioner (WHNP) is an advanced-practice nurse who provides primary care services to women across their lifespans. These nurses primarily focus on obstetric, gynecological, and reproductive health. Not only do they provide diagnostic care and treatment, but they also employ preventative health measures. It's important to distinguish WHNPs from certified nurse-midwives (CNMs). While the clinical focus of a CNM tends to be centered around childbearing, from conception to delivery, a WHNP treats female patients over their entire lifespan and does so mainly in a primary care office setting, as opposed to in a hospital or delivery room.

What Are Some Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Duties?

Task and duties commonly carried out by women's health nurse practitioners may include the following:

  • Taking comprehensive obstetric and gynecologic medical histories
  • Assessing, diagnosing, and treating disease risk factors which are specific to women
  • Educating patients on available forms of contraception
  • Prescribing contraception/medication
  • Evaluating physical and social environmental risks which could impact childbearing
  • Inserting long-acting reversible contraception tools such as intrauterine devices or implanted devices
  • Screening for substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and risky behaviors
  • Assessing, diagnosing, and treating sexually transmitted diseases
  • Ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests
  • Working alongside OBGYN physicians - assisting during surgical or invasive procedures
  • Addressing patient concerns of infertility
  • Educating and counseling patients about menopause
  • Assisting patients through the perinatal period
  • Performing primary care procedures like pap smears and endometrial biopsies
  • Monitoring fetal activity
  • Collaborating with health care providers to effectively manage high-risk pregnancies

Where Do Women's Health Nurse Practitioners Work?

A high-level role, WHNPs often find employment in the following settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Women's health clinics
  • Community health clinics
  • OB/GYN physicians' offices

How to Become a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner

WHNPs require an advanced nursing education, as well as extensive experience caring for women of all ages. Some WHNPs start out as OB nurses or in other areas of women's care prior to becoming advanced practitioners. A deep understanding of women's health issues, such as fertility, childbirth, menopause, and breast health is crucial to the success of this nursing role.

Step 1: Educational Requirements

To become a women's health nurse practitioner, the following educational credentials are required:

  • Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN prelicensure exam
  • Obtain an RN license
  • Earn a Master's in Nursing Science (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), usually with a WHNP specialty

Do Women's Health Nurse Practitioners Need an RN Degree?

Yes, not only do women's health nurse practitioners need to have active and unrestricted RN licenses, but they must also possess graduate degrees in nursing (i.e. MSN or DNP degrees) from accredited colleges or universities. Additionally, WHNPs should have several years of clinical experience.

Step 2: Required Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Certifications/Credentials

Individuals are awarded the Women's Health Nurse Practitioner board certification (WHNP-BC) through the National Certification Corporation (NCC). In order to meet the requirements for the certification, 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 successfully completed an accredited graduate nurse practitioner program that meets NCC program requirements
    • Program can be an MSN, DNP, or post-master's certificate
  • Certification exam must be completed within 8 years of graduating from the graduate degree program

Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Jobs, Salary & Employment

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated in 2017 that over 166,000 nurse practitioners were currently employed in the country. Of that number, 12,000 to 15,000 were women's health nurse practitioners. In the coming years, employment opportunities for WHNPs are expected to grow due to an increased demand for healthcare services from an aging population as well as an increased emphasis placed on preventative care.

Job Description & Information

  • Essential Skills Needed - Excellent assessment and diagnostic abilities, strong critical thinking skills, well-honed interpersonal communication skills, extensive educational background in women's health, compassion, empathy, teamwork
  • Job Outlook - The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that overall employment of nurse practitioners is projected to increase by 31 percent from 2016 to 2026 - much faster than the average for all other occupational sectors.

What Is the Average Salary of a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner?

PayScale reports that, on average, women's health nurse practitioners make yearly salaries of approximately $89,659. The states where nurse practitioners can make the most money are California, Alaska, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and New Jersey. Aside from geographical location, other factors that will contribute to how much a WHNP earns include the employing organization, level of education, specific credentials held, and amount of clinical experience. WHNPs are highly sought after advanced-practice nurses. Those who are employed full time can expect to receive generous benefits packages to include medical, dental, and vision insurance coverage, as well as prescription drug coverage. Receiving some annual paid time off and sick leave is also generally of the norm for this profession.

How Much Do Women's Health Nurse Practitioners Make per Year?

  • $71,000 – $109,000 annually

How Much Do Women's Health Nurse Practitioners Make per Hour?

  • $46.32 average hourly wage

Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Resources