Women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) work with women on general and reproductive health issues. WHNPs may perform or instruct women how to perform breast and cervical cancer exams, pap smears, and other diagnostic procedures, as well as providing advice about menopause and other woman specific health issues. However, graduates of WHNP programs will be adequately trained to treat both men and women from adolescence to adulthood to old age.
Becoming a nurse practitioner means working autonomously in a variety of settings, from doctors’ offices, to campus clinics, to oncology departments to people’s homes. As with all healthcare careers, part of a WHNP’s role is to educate patients and encourage preventive care in addition to performing examinations, ordering diagnostic tests, and prescribing appropriate medication. Other responsibilities include providing prenatal care, family planning services, and sometimes performing minor surgeries and procedures. WHNPs develop a large body of knowledge about problems that are more common in women, such as osteoarthritis, migraines and depression.
Degree Options and Career Information
Most WHNP programs include coursework in advanced health assessment, physiology/pathophysiology, primary care of women, genetics and embryology, prenatal care, ethical, legal and leadership issues, preceptorship for women’s health, hormone therapies, oncology, STD testing, and reproductive health. The Master’s degree in Nursing usually takes two to three years to complete, and graduates must then take an exam to become certified.
- WHNP Requirements: To become a WHNP, you must first become a registered nurse, then complete a master’s degree and pass a state or national certification test, depending on where you want to practice.
- Work Environment: WHNPs can work independently as primary care providers in some places, but usually work in a doctor’s office, hospital, public health clinic, midwifery practice, or other health care facility.