Female nurse with an elderly woman

How to Become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Patient Care Technician with elderly patient

While some people may assume that women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) are limited in scope only to reproductive and sexual health, but the truth is, they do so much more. If you’re excited by the idea of a healthcare career where you’ll provide holistic care with lots of independence and autonomy—plus have the chance to build trusting relationships with your patients—becoming a women’s health nurse practitioner could be the best nursing specialty for you! It’s a rewarding way to make a living, in more ways than one. That’s why we recently featured women’s health nurse practitioners on our list of the highest-paid nursing jobs in 2021.

This career guide will teach you everything you need to know about becoming a women’s health nurse practitioner, including the educational requirements, certifications, day-to-day duties, and how long it generally takes to launch your new career.

Not sure if becoming a women’s health nurse practitioner is the right nursing specialty for you? Click here to see our full list of the highest-paying nursing jobs.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Definition

What is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner?

Women’s health nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) that provide women of all ages with wide-ranging care. While WHNPs specialize in reproductive and gynecological health, they also perform preventative medicine and diagnose non-reproductive health issues. By providing a safe environment and building trust with their patients, women’s health nurse practitioners also help address environmental or behavioral risks that may negatively impact their patients’ health.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner: Job Description

What Does a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Do?

While they do not deliver babies, women’s health nurse practitioners are involved in most other aspects of reproductive and gynecological health. Frequently, that includes conducting wellness exams, diagnosing diseases that affect women, and providing prenatal care. WHNPs also frequently prescribe medication and contraceptives, including performing procedures to implant long-term contraception like IUDs. Finally, WHNPs provide counseling and education to their patients on a variety of topics. This can include everything from managing menopause to improving sexual health to escaping unsafe relationships or home environments.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Duties

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of women’s health nurse practitioners include:

  • Conducting women’s wellness exams
  • Prescribing medication, including contraceptives
  • Diagnosing women’s health issues like ovarian, breast, or cervical cancer
  • Screening for signs of domestic abuse or substance abuse
  • Providing prenatal care, including pregnancy dating and ultrasounds
  • Educating women about STDs, unexpected pregnancies, and many other topics

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Skills

To succeed as a women’s health nurse practitioner, you’ll need extensive medical training and significant attention to detail, as you’ll be operating with a great degree of independence and limited oversight. The best women’s health nurse practitioners are calming personalities who can put people at ease, as many patients can be hesitant to fully open up about personal topics like sexual health. Like any nursing career, becoming a WHNP requires a certain amount of emotional resilience, as you’ll occasionally have to break difficult news to people or help care for those who may be victims of abuse.

Row of empty hospital beds

Where Do Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners Work?

Women’s health nurse practitioners work in a variety of healthcare settings including outpatient clinics, OB/GYN offices, hospitals, and urgent-care facilities. While nearly all nurse practitioners work full time, hours for WHNPs may vary significantly by the employer. For example, women’s health nurse practitioners at outpatient clinics usually work more standard business hours, while 24-hour facilities like hospitals or urgent-care clinics may require working nights, weekends, or being on-call at certain times.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Schooling & Certification

How Long Does it Take to Become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner?

Like any high-paying nursing job, becoming a women’s health nurse practitioner requires a significant amount of time and effort. However, just about any WHNP will tell you the rewards are more than worth it! As for your nursing education, you’ll need to start by earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited college or university. Traditionally, earning a BSN requires spending a full four years in school, but thanks to accelerated degree programs, you could finish your nursing degree in as little as 32 months! All advanced practice registered nurses (including WHNPs) will also need to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree before they’re able to practice independently.

Any long-term goal seems much more attainable when you break it down into individual steps, and becoming a women’s health nurse practitioner is no different.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the education, experience, and certifications you’ll need to become a women’s health nurse practitioner:

1. Enroll in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program

Step one in your women’s health nurse practitioner education is enrolling in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program from an accredited college or university. While completing nursing school requires focus, dedication, and hard work, nearly anyone can become a registered nurse if you’re willing to put in the necessary effort. For example, to enroll in the BSN program at Brookline College, all you’ll need is a high school diploma or GED with a GPA of 2.5 or higher, plus a passing score on the ATI-TEAS admission exam.

Woman with a backpack and books

2. Earn Your BSN Degree

Like all the other top nursing specialties, your career as a women’s health nurse practitioner begins with earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Your BSN coursework will include general-education requirements like math, literature, statistics, psychology, and communications—courses you’ll find in any bachelor’s degree program. While these classes may not be directly related to nursing or medicine, they’ll help you become a better listener, communicator, and critical thinker, which are all essential skills when operating with limited oversight as a women’s health nurse practitioner.

Of course, the main focus of your BSN program will involve learning the various aspects of nursing. Some of your classes will cover how to assess patients and treat a wide variety of conditions, including the women’s health issues you’ll encounter as a WHNP. Others will teach you about pharmacology and all the different medicines and units of measure used in the medical field. You’ll also cover health care law and ethics, which will be important in dealing with situations like identifying victims of domestic violence. Finally, expect to take classes focused on evidence-based decision-making, which will help you make accurate diagnoses of some of the more serious women’s health issues like ovarian cysts, or breast or cervical cancer.

Alongside your nursing-specific coursework, you’ll also spend time studying related medical sciences like anatomy, microbiology, nutrition, and human development. A well-rounded knowledge of medicine will be essential in providing holistic and preventative care, which is a major part of being a successful women’s health nurse practitioner.

The last step of your BSN education requires completing a clinical capstone program, which will give you hands-on experience with real patients. While your nursing program will involve plenty of simulated clinical decision-making, there’s no substitute for real-world experience where your actions directly influence outcomes for the people under your care. Since women’s health nurse practitioners often operate with little to no supervision from a physician, you’ll need to have supreme confidence in your knowledge and abilities, which can only come from experience.

Wherever you choose to pursue your nursing degree, make sure it’s with a college that’s up-to-date on the latest training tools, and one with a proven history of supporting their students, even after they’ve completed their coursework. Nursing schools that offer students extra services like job-placement programs can sometimes help you line up your first job as an RN before you’ve even been fitted for your graduation cap!

3. Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

Before you can become a women’s health nurse practitioner, you’ll need to get licensed as a registered nurse by passing the NCLEX-RN exam. The NCLEX is a computer-adaptive test, meaning the number of questions and the amount of time it takes will depend on how many questions you answer correctly. The maximum number of questions on the NCLEX is around 265, over a total of six hours—however, the test can also be over in as few as 75 questions if you’re answering everything correctly! Two optional breaks are scheduled at the 2-hour mark and the 3.5-hour mark. Practice NCLEX exams are widely available, and are highly recommended to get familiar with the exam format before test day.

4. Gain Experience as a Licensed Registered Nurse

Once you’ve passed the NCLEX, you’ll be eligible to receive a nursing license from the state in which you intend to practice. The NCLEX is nationally recognized, which gives you the flexibility to take your nursing skills anywhere you want to live! Any RN experience will be valuable, but if you’re pursuing a career as a women’s health nurse practitioner, you’ll likely want to seek employment in an OB/GYN office or a women’s health clinic. The more relevant experience you have with women’s health, the more likely you will get noticed by potential employers when it comes time to land your first job as a WHNP.

Nursing license renewal requirements vary by state, but you’ll generally need to renew your license every two to three years. As long as you’ve been actively working as an RN or participating in continuing education programs (like an MSN program), you should be able to keep your nursing license current without any trouble.

Nurse in scrubs and a mask

5. Earn a Postsecondary Nursing Degree

Since advanced practice registered nurses frequently operate with little supervision, women’s health nurse practitioners must complete a postgraduate nursing degree, almost always a master’s of science in nursing (MSN). Many educational institutions offer MSN programs focused specifically on women’s health, which will build upon both your real-world experience and what you learned during your BSN studies.

Women’s health MSN programs are available at nursing schools across the country, including online programs that allow working full-time as a registered nurse while earning your master’s degree. Typically, earning your MSN degree takes two more years in school, though it’s possible to finish some accelerated programs as quickly as 18 months.

6. Become a Certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)

After completing an MSN program focused on advanced practice women’s health nursing, you’ll be eligible to get certified as a Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner by the National Certification Corporation. Some women’s health nurse practitioners instead choose to become certified as Family Nurse Practitioners by either the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Any of these nurse practitioner certifications will allow you to practice as the lead healthcare provider for your patients in many settings.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Salary

How Much Do Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners Make?

According to Salary.com, women’s health nurse practitioners throughout the country earn an average annual salary* of over $107,000, which works out to over $51 per hour. Women’s health nurse’s salaries among the top 10% of earners often reach $122,000 per year and up.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook

What is the Job Outlook for Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners?

In many healthcare settings (including women’s health), nurse practitioners continue to take on an increased role in providing primary patient care, which comes with excellent long-term job security. While the BLS doesn’t provide specific job data on women’s health nurse practitioners, they estimate the overall employment of nurse practitioners will increase an unheard-of 45% by the year 2029. Considering the average growth rate for all other careers is around 4%, becoming a nurse practitioner means you’ll have one of the best long-term job outlooks anywhere in the medical industry.

Smiling nurse with a female patient

Ready to Start Your Career as a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner?

If you long to change people’s lives for the better, and to help women of all ages become the healthiest, happiest version of themselves, a career as a women’s health nurse practitioner could be your calling in the nursing field. It’s incredibly rewarding work, and the fact that WHNPs are one of the highest-paid nursing specialties certainly doesn’t hurt either!

Ready to start taking steps toward a long, fulfilling career as a women’s health nurse practitioner? Click here to learn more about the BSN program at Brookline College, and begin working toward your new career in nursing today!