A nurse practitioner is required to have a master's degree in nursing, a nursing license, and certification. A women's health nurse practitioner must also have experience as a registered nurse and certification in women's health nursing.
As advanced practice nurses, nurse practitioners can choose to specialize in a number of fields, including women's health. Women's health nurse practitioners need a master's degree in nursing, as well as additional licensure and certification.
|Required Education||Master's degree|
|Other Requirements||Experience as a registered nurse|
|Licensure and Certification||National licensure and certification required; additional certification in women's health nursing|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||31% for all types of nurse practitioners|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$98,190 for all types of nurse practitioners|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Aspiring women's health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) must have experience as registered nurses before applying to most Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs. To become a registered nurse (RN), a student must complete a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree program in nursing and pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
Master of Science in Nursing
In order to become a WHNP, one needs to graduate from an MSN program. The National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health (NPWH) and the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses are two organizations that set standards for curricula in WHNP education. Most of these programs are designed for practicing registered nurses who have experience in the field and want to advance their careers. Those who enroll in a WHNP education program might take the following courses:
- Assessing clinical evidence
- Policy and practice of advanced nursing
- Maternal, fetal and newborn physiology
- Pelvic assessment of women
- Comprehensive women's health
- Pharmacology for nurse practitioners
Doctor of Nursing Practice
Completion of an MSN program is sufficient to enter the field as a nurse practitioner. However, students also can opt to obtain a DNP, or Doctor of Nursing Practice. DNP programs that focus on women's health nursing can prepare students to enter teaching or give greater education to nurses who wish to provide more thorough care to their patients.
Students in DNP programs often complete a clinical residency. Common courses include practical health policy, epidemiology, health care leadership, advanced women's health practice, nursing research and pharmacotherapeutics.
Licensing and Certification Information
In all states, nurse practitioners must earn recognition, certification or licensure to practice. Requirements vary by state, but typically include completion of a master's program in nursing and/or certification through a national organization.
The National Certification Corporation offers a WHNP certification examination. In order to maintain certification, WHNPs must meet continuing education requirements every five years. NPWH offers continuing education programs that may satisfy these requirements and allow WHNPs to advance in their careers.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse practitioners in general may expect job growth of 31%, much faster than the average for all occupations, from 2014-2024. The BLS reported that, as of May 2015, nurse practitioners earned a median salary of $98,190 per year.
Before applying to master's degree programs, nurses must have practical experience. Those interested in becoming women's health nurse practitioners can choose specialized master's programs that include comprehensive training in women's health. After completing a master's degree, those wishing to pursuing further studies may earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice, which will prepare graduates to enter the teaching field.