What you'll do: Women's health nurse practitioners provide comprehensive woman-focused health care, with an emphasis on reproductive and gynecological health. Their work includes health promotion and disease prevention, as well as management of acute and chronic health conditions affecting women.
Degree you'll need to practice: Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
Certification: Certification is only required for practice as a women's health nurse practitioner in about half the states. Certification is available through the National Certification Corporation (NCC).
Median annual salary: $89,960*
Women's health nurses work primarily in outpatient care facilities, including primary care clinics, physician offices, community health centers and college health clinics. They may also practice in long-term care facilities, hospitals, or virtually anywhere that women seek health care.
Women's health nurses work under the direction of a doctor or nurse practitioner to provide a wide range of care to women, including some of the following responsibilities:
- Family planning services
- Well-woman care and disease prevention
- Management of sexually transmitted diseases
- Prenatal and postpartum care
- Care during perimenopause and menopause
- Care for women with cancer, HIV/AIDS and disabilities
- Care for women with substance abuse problems
- Care for women who are suffering from abuse
- Assessment, health education and counseling
Women's health nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses (APNs), qualified to provide diagnosis and treatment for all of the health concerns listed above. They are also trained to apply nursing theory and research to clinical practice, and may function as researchers, administrators, consultants and educators in the field.
Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Education
Women's health nurses are registered nurses (RNs). You can become an RN with a 2-year associate's degree or a 2- to 3-year hospital diploma program. However, you will have greater employment and advancement opportunities if you earn a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.
To become a women's health nurse practitioner, you will also need to complete a specific Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, typically obtained through a 2-year program of graduate study. You can then seek recognition by your state board of nursing as an APN. Alternatively, if you already have a master's degree, you can pursue a 1- or 2-year post-master's certificate program consisting of specialty coursework.
As with all nursing careers, the demand for women's health nurses is expected to increase significantly over the next 10 years, resulting from experienced nurses retiring or leaving the profession. Outpatient care centers and physician's offices, the settings for most women's health nursing jobs, will have faster employment growth rates than hospitals because new technology enables more sophisticated care on an outpatient basis.
Sources: Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook; Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners.
*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.