Women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) are an integral segment of the American health care system. Female patients and an aging female population, who prefer nurse practitioners and doctors who are trained in the specific health care needs of women, drive the demand for WHNPs. The rapidly aging population presents challenges for the health care industry, notably a lack of enough qualified WHNPs to care for the unique needs of older women . Without a rapid increase in the number of qualified WHNPs, the industry, and women’s health, may suffer.
What is a WHNP?
Nursing exists in several stages, each granting more responsibility than the previous level, but with stricter educational requirements. A WHNP is a nurse who progresses through RN (Registered Nurse) and BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) status to earn an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing), usually with a concentration in women’s health. The applicant then must pass a licensing examination from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners . As with any specialization, nurses choose women’s health because they are passionate about the people they wish to serve. WHNPs are increasingly in demand as the medical community recognizes the depth of knowledge needed to address women’s unique health concerns. One of the most important areas of study is the intersection of socioeconomic factors and women’s health . Researchers attributed the risk to a number of factors, including lack of access to preventive care, incomplete education about health issues, and high stress levels. Without access to necessary preventive treatment and pre-natal care, these low income women suffer significantly higher mortality rates than the rest of the population. Through public pressure and education, the government and the private sector will continue to expand access to women’s health services throughout the country. WHNPs will help address the need.
Women’s Health Specialization
The elevated educational requirements allow nurse practitioners to perform services beyond that of a typical nurse. A nurse practitioner acts as a supplement to a physician, and in some states, a practitioner can operate a clinic without the supervision of an MD. Nurse practitioners can diagnose and prescribe medications for acute conditions, collect medical histories, and build a treatment plan to improve a patient’s health. RNs, on the other hand, can make recommendations and consult with other healthcare professionals, but the final decision about a patient’s treatment lies in the hands of the doctor. Students who are passionate about women’s health and the issues that women face may further specialize to become a WHNP. As a WHNP, the practitioner can provide essential services, such as:
Prescribing oral contraceptives
Consulting with patients for hormone treatments
Performing routine gynecological examinations
Screening for breast cancer
Providing pre- and post-natal care to babies and mothers
The highly specialized work of a WHNP encourages them to work in a narrower selection of environments than other practitioners. WHNPs that do not open their own practice often work in concert with an OB/GYN or other medical doctor focused on women’s health issues. WHNPs also gravitate towards private or public service clinics in distressed neighborhoods.
The Future of WHNP
The outlook for WHNP is strong. An aging American population desperately needs medical professionals of all kinds. More than 68 percent of Americans have two or more chronic medical conditions, including 66 percent of Americans over 65. Compounding the problem is a severe gap between the number of doctors and nurses retiring each year, and the number of candidates to replace them . In addition, the Affordable Care Act and other efforts at healthcare reform brought millions of Americans into the healthcare system. As of 2016, 20 million Americans have taken advantage of the Affordable Care Act, with millions more eligible to enroll . As the number of insured people rises, demand for healthcare will place an enormous strain on the existing system. States and the federal government are working together to find a solution to the shortage of medical professionals. One of the most popular solutions is the expansion of responsibilities for nurse practitioners. In the interim, demand for nurse practitioners, including WHNPs, remains high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job creation for nurse practitioners to be one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy through 2024, with a median salary of more than $100,000 .
Providing medical services takes skill. Serving more than half of the U.S. population takes specialized expertise. That’s where the online Master of Science in Nursing with a focus in Women’s Health Nursing Practice makes its mark. With Regis online WHNP MSN, you can learn to treat women’s specialized health needs across their life cycle.
- Thomason, A., Capps, N., Lefler, L., & Richard-Davis, G. (2015, August 11). Factors Affecting Gynecologic and Sexual Assessment in Older Women: A Lesson for Primary Care Providers. Healthcare 2015, 683-694. Retrieved from Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board
- American Psychological Association
- The Atlantic
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics