A women's health nurse practitioner provides biological, intersex and transgender women with health care throughout their lives — from puberty to pregnancy to menopause and beyond. A WHNP's focus is on general women’s health care including gynecological and obstetric health. But the care WHNPs offer goes well beyond a woman’s health needs during her reproductive years.
Patients may opt for a women’s health nurse practitioner over an obstetrician because of their broader and sometimes more personalized and collaborative approach to health care. WHNPs have a reputation for taking time to listen to their patients’ questions and addressing their overall wellness and medical needs.
Top women’s health nurse practitioner programs provide registered nurses who want to specialize in women’s health with the tools and training they need to be proficient in their field. In WHNP programs, nursing students learn a holistic approach to care that centers on a patient’s physical and emotional well-being. Nurses gain knowledge and experience in both classroom and clinical settings where they can develop lasting relationships with mentors and peers in the profession.
Online women's health nurse practitioner programs are an option for busy working nurses who wish to pursue a Master of Science degree part time and for others seeking the flexibility that an online program provides.
Why Is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Important?
WHNPs are unique. While they provide gynecological health care throughout a patient’s life, they are also educated and skilled at addressing aspects of health that affect reproductive health, including work/life balance and heart, nutrition, fitness and mental health. For example, a WHNP is able to diagnose and treat sexually transmitted infections and is also trained to address the emotional toll the diagnosis might have on a patient.
Women’s health nurse practitioners work in a variety of settings, including private practice offices, clinics, universities and hospitals. They specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, providing well-visit care and disease-prevention education, contraceptive counseling and prenatal support. WHNPs also address a woman’s chronic health concerns, such as diabetes, and her mental health needs.
HPV and sexually transmitted infection screening, treatment and follow-up.
Health and wellness counseling.
Miscarriage care and support.
Preconception health, prenatal visits and postpartum care.
Concerns about menses and menarche.
Urinary tract problems, such as incontinence or infections.
Menopause-related health and management.
Screening for heart disease, hypertension and diabetes and offering referrals and support when a condition is identified.
How To Become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
Women's health nurse practitioners are disciplined and committed health professionals who have had an extensive education. Individuals interested in pursuing this specialty should research undergraduate and graduate nursing programs carefully because program requirements may vary from school to school. The following steps are required in order to become a women’s health nurse practitioner:
WHNP Education Requirements
Earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing and become a registered nurse. Required coursework focuses heavily on science-related topics, including physiology, microbiology, psychology/mental health, pharmacology and neonatal health. Alternatively, some programs, such as RN to MSN programs, offer bridge coursework that allow students with an associate’s degree in nursing to enter the program.
Pass a national certification exam through the National Certification Corporation for women’s health nurse practitioners. Eligibility requirements: In order to be eligible to take the exam, a nurse must be an RN and have earned an MSN or DNP through an accredited women's health care nurse practitioner program. The program must be sponsored by or affiliated with a college or university. At least 200 didactic (teaching) hours and 600 clinical hours specifically related to women’s health care are required. The certification process includes the option to take a written test that covers knowledge of primary care, gynecology and obstetrics care for women. It is offered once a year in September, or a computer-based exam is available year-round. Fees: $325, which includes a $50 nonrefundable application fee and a $275 testing fee. License renewal is required every three years and requires a $100 fee and 45 continuing education hours. Once certified, a nurse uses the acronym WHNP-BC, where the “BC” stands for board certified.
Online programs can be a logical and efficient way for working nurses to pursue a specialty in women’s health while keeping their current commitments. Programs such as our partner, Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies’ Online Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Program enable students to earn an advanced degree right where they are. Universities including but not limited to East Carolina University, Texas Tech University, University of Cincinnati and Philadelphia University also offer online WHNP programs. To explore more options, visit the Online Midwifery Programs page.