Women's Health Nurse Practitioner
Women's health nurse practitioners are registered nurses (RNs) who specialize in women's health issues from adolescence to after menopause. They provide advanced nursing care involving women's reproductive systems, sexually transmitted diseases, fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth. Women's health nurse practitioners also conduct examinations, make assessments and diagnoses, order diagnostic tests, perform minor surgical procedures, and prescribe medications under the supervision of a licensed doctor. Nurses often spend many work hours standing and might have to lift or move patients.
|Degree Level||Master's degree or post-graduate certificate|
|Degree Field(s)||Women's health nurse practitioner|
|Licensure||All states license registered nurses (RNs); licensure as an advanced practice nurse is also required in most states|
|Certification||National Certification Corporation (NCC) certifies women's health nurse practitioners|
|Key Skills||Abilities to use medical devices, perform medical procedures, and collect tissue specimens|
|Salary (2014)||$104,740 (median for all nurse practitioners)|
Sources: Careerbuilder.com job listings, State nursing boards, National Certification Corporation, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Step 1: Undergraduate Degree
The first step towards becoming a women's health nurse practitioner is to obtain an undergraduate degree in nursing. Applicants for graduate women's health nursing degree programs are required to be RNs who have earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited school of nursing. Undergraduate nursing school programs generally require that applicants have completed prerequisite courses in human anatomy, physiology, biology, and chemistry. Nursing courses include pharmacology and pathophysiology basics, health assessment fundamentals, and healthcare systems as well as women's, children's, and mental health. Student nurses also participate in several supervised clinical rotations in the major health disciplines.
Step 2: State License
The second step towards becoming a women's health nurse practitioner is to obtain a state license as a registered nurse. An RN license in good standing is a requirement for admission to a women's health graduate degree program. A graduate of a state-approved or accredited nursing college may apply for a nursing license with the state nursing board or other appropriate regulatory oversight board. Most states require nurses to pass the National Council Licensure Examination - Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) before licensure.
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Step 3: Experience
The third step towards becoming a women's health nurse practitioner is to obtain experience. Most women's health nurse practitioner programs prefer that applicants have some clinical experience in women's health nursing. This experience can be obtained by working as a nurse in women's health clinics, private OB-GYN practices, or hospital settings. Having at least 1-2 years experience is desirable.
Step 4: Master's Degree
The fourth step towards becoming a women's health practitioner degree is to obtain a master's degree from an accredited program. A master's degree program in women's health generally takes between 1 1/2-3 years to complete. Courses include advanced physiology, pharmacology, pathophysiology, assessments, prenatal/postnatal medicine, women's reproductive system, women's health care, and diagnostics. There are also clinical practicums that must be performed as a graduation requirement.
Step 5: Certification
The fifth step towards becoming a women's health nurse practitioner is to apply for certification. Graduates of accredited women's health master's degree programs who hold a valid RN license are eligible to take board certification exams administered by such organizations as the NCC. This type of professional certification is required to work as a nurse practitioner in many states.
Maintain certification. Women's health practitioners must complete 45 hours of approved continuing education training during each 3-year certification cycle in order to maintain certification. They must also have maintained their RN licenses. Recertification requirements for RN licenses vary from state to state.
The steps towards becoming a women's health nurse practitioner include obtaining an undergraduate degree, obtaining a state license, gaining experience, earning a master's degree, and applying for certification.