There is a nationwide shortage of nurses, giving students enrolled in nursing programs a variety of specialties to decide between in the field of nursing. Choosing to work as a women’s health practitioner could prove to be a particularly rewarding career decision. Women make up half of the U.S. population. Their health concerns are unique and vary considerably from men’s health needs.
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A Nurse Practitioner’s Role in Women’s Health Care
Women’s health nurse practitioners play an integral part in helping patients sustain health and happiness. The demand for these experts, and the profession itself, is growing quickly because of the current nursing shortage.
What Is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner?
A women’s health nurse practitioner is a registered nurse (RN) who has an advanced education and clinical experience in women’s health care. WHNPs can have variable levels of expertise in a number of specialties pertaining to women’s health, including obstetrics, gynecology, urogynecology, gynecologic oncology, infertility and maternal/fetal medicine. They may be employed at primary care facilities, wellness clinics and specialty care clinics in the fields of endocrinology, rheumatology, cardiology and dermatology, among others.
The Growing Demand for WHNPs
Demand for women’s health nurse practitioners is high for numerous reasons. Over half of the U.S. population is comprised of women, and according to research, women tend to utilize health care services more often than men.
The Current Supply of WHNPs
An estimated 12,000 to 15,000 nurses have completed the necessary educational requirements and are now qualified to be women’s health nurse practitioners. Among nurse practitioners who are eligible to work as WHNPs, more than 7,000 have completed national certification.
Median Salaries of Nurse Practitioners
According to research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median yearly income for nurse practitioners was $100,910 in 2016, varying by state. Employment opportunities for nurse practitioners are becoming more available, and demand is projected to increase by 31 percent from 2014 to 2024. This rate of growth is much faster than the average for most other occupations.
Women’s health nurse practitioners often decide to train with an emphasis in gynecologic and reproductive health needs. Nurses are the primary providers of bedside care for women and newborn children, and more than 350,000 registered nurses provide health care services to women and infants in the United States.
Research shows that the ability and bedside manner of nurses can have a huge impact on pregnant women, especially for women in adolescence, over the age of 35 or uneducated about pregnancy and other birth-related processes.
The importance of highly trained nurses caring for women in all stages of pregnancy is incredibly significant. Almost half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Approximately 50 percent of women who planned their pregnancy and two-thirds of those who didn’t plan their pregnancy have at least one risk factor. And among all pregnant women, almost one-third do not seek care until their second trimester.
Several of the most prevalent pregnancy risks include anemia, asthma, depression, anxiety, undiagnosed diabetes and nutritional deficiencies in underweight, folate-deficient or obese mothers.
Screening and Preventative Care for Women of all Ages
Nurse practitioners play a crucial role in women’s health promotion and prevention. By screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), cancers, depression and domestic abuse, NPs provide essential care to women of all ages.
Women’s health nurse practitioners can provide screenings for an array of health-related issues. These include breast cancer, cervical cancer, diabetes, human papillomavirus infection (HPV) and STIs. WHNPs also check for early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and hypertension, and interpersonal and domestic violence.
Overseeing well-woman preventative visits is also under the purview of women’s health nurse practitioners. Most women should strive to make an appointment for a preventative visit at least once a year beginning at the onset of adolescence. Depending on a patient’s age and health concerns, these visits may include breast exams, mammograms, pap tests and pelvic examinations. Questions about menstrual cycles, contraception and STI prevention may be asked during a well-woman preventative visit as well.
As the health care industry is currently in the midst of a nationwide nursing shortage, nurse practitioners are in higher demand than ever. Women tend to use the health care system for preventative and essential care more often than men, making nurse practitioners specializing in women’s care particularly sought after. It is for these reasons that women’s health nurse practitioners play an important and necessary role in maintaining family and societal health.