How to Become a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner


    Women's health nurse practitioner discussing chart with a female patient

    By: Kathleen Gaines, RN, BSN, MSN, BA, CBC

    A Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse that specializes in the comprehensive care of women throughout their lives. If you are considering becoming a Women’s Health NP, this career guide will give you all of the information you need to make that decision and start you on your path to becoming one.

    Part One What is a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner?

    A Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner is a type of Nurse Practitioner that focuses on reproductive, obstetric, and gynecological health for women of all ages. But more importantly, this position focuses on the entire lifespan of women's health and does so most often in a primary care office setting, rather than a hospital or delivery room.

    It is important to note that this position is similar but also very different from a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). A Women’s Health NP spends less time focusing on conception and delivery of newborns than a CNM. This is still a part of their duties and responsibilities, but some will only spend a small percentage of time taking care of those types of patients.

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    Part Two What Do Women's Health Nurse Practitioners Do?

    Women’s Health NPs take care of women throughout their entire lifespan and, for that reason, are responsible for a variety of duties. These duties will vary based on the work location, but may include: 

    • Conducting well-woman gynecological exams
    • Reviewing preventive health needs
    • Educating on available contraception and birth control options
    • Prescribing medications and contraception
    • Inserting long-acting reversible contraception such as
      • Intrauterine devices
      • Implanted devices
    • Ordering and interpreting blood and imaging tests
    • Designing treatment plans
    • Scheduling patients for surgical procedures and coordinating with the healthcare system and surgical department
    • Preparing patients for surgery and post-operative plan of care
    • Discharging patients from hospital after procedures and treatment
    • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals
    • Addressing infertility concerns
    • Sexually transmitted disease diagnosis, treatment, and education
    • Managing women through the perinatal period, including:
      • Confirming/dating pregnancy
      • Educating on pregnancy health
      • Performing ultrasounds
      • Monitoring fetal activity
    • Menopause education and counseling
    • Screening for domestic violence, substance abuse, and high-risk behaviors
    • Diagnosing female-related disease processes including, 
      • Breast, ovarian, cervical cancer
      • Hormone changes/menopause
      • Ovarian cysts
      • Female infertility
      • Urogynecological disorders
    • May work alongside OB/GYNs as a first assist during surgical procedures

    >>Related: How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

    Part Three Where Do Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners Work?

    Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners can work in a variety of locations. These include:

    • Primary Healthcare Clinics
    • Hospitals
    • Community Healthcare Clinics
    • Academia
    • OB/GYN Clinics
    • Planned Parenthood
    • Family Planning Clinics
    • Fertility Clinics
    • Women’s Prisons
    • Private Practice
    • Urgent Care Centers
    • Student Health Clinics

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    Part Four Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Salary

    According to Glassdoor.com, Women’s Health NPs make on average $110,076 per year. Payscale.com reports an average annual salary of $91,454 or roughly $47.72 per hour

    Specifically, Women’s Health NPs can earn a higher annual salary with increased years of experience.

    • 1-4 years of experience earn an average salary of $87,899
    • 5-9 years of experience earns an average salary of $92,757
    • 10-19 years of experience earns an average salary of $95,745
    • 20+ years of experience earns an average salary of $98,266

    Currently, the highest paying states for Women’s Health NPs that have reported salaries, according to payscale.com are as follows:

    • New York, New York - $109,298 per year
    • Boston, Massachusetts - $101,000 per year
    • Phoenix, Arizona - $100,410 per year
    • Houston, Texas - $97,662 per year
    • Atlanta, Georgia - $94,659 per year

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for nurse practitioners in 2019 was $115,800 per year, or $55.67 per hour. Unfortunately, the BLS does not differentiate between different types of Nurse Practitioners. 

    Regardless of workplace setting, full-time and part-time nurses enjoy similar benefits. While actual benefits may vary depending on the institution most include the following:

    • Health insurance
    • Certification Reimbursement      
    • Retirement Options
    • Holiday Pay
    • Family Leave of Absence
    • Maternity Leave
    • Dental Insurance
    • Dependent health insurance coverage
    • Life Insurance
    • Paid time off
    • Relocation assistance
    • Childcare
    • Bereavement leave       
    • Vision Insurance        
    • Discounts on extracurricular activities      
    • Continuing Education Reimbursement
    • Relocation packages
    • Attendance at nursing conferences

    Part Five How Do You Become A Women's Health Nurse Practitioner?

    To become a Women’s Health NP, you must first become a registered nurse (RN).

    Step 1: Attend Nursing School

    You’ll need to earn either an ADN or a BSN from an accredited nursing program in order to take the first steps to becoming a registered nurse. ADN-prepared nurses will need to complete an additional step of either completing their BSN degree, or entering into an accelerated RN to MSN program which will let them earn their BSN and MSN at the same time.

    Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN

    Become a Registered Nurse by passing the NCLEX examination. 

    Step 3: Gain Experience or Continue Your Education

    Nurses can choose to gain some nursing experience before going back to school, or go directly into an MSN program depending on their unique situation. 

    Step 4: Graduate With Your Women’s Health NP From an Accredited Nursing Program

    Enter into an MSN/NP program that offers a program to become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. For tips on getting into nursing school, check out our article on What To Know About Applying to Nursing Schools

    Step 5: Become a Certified NP by Passing Your National Examination

    The National Certification Corporation offers Women's Health Care Nurse Practitioner (WHNP-BC) certification. This certification is available to APRNs that meet the following criteria.

    WHNP-BC Certification Requirements

    • Current U.S. nursing licensure is required
    • Successful completion of an accredited graduate nurse practitioner program that meets NCC program requirements and prepares women's health care nurse practitioners. The program can be a master's, DNP or post-master's. NCC no longer accepts certificate prepared applicants.
    • You must take the exam within 8 years of graduation from your program.

    Additional Exam Information

    • $325 which is composed of a $50 non-refundable application submission cost and a $275 testing fee.
    • This certification exam is a 3-hour test consisting of 175 multiple-choice items.  
    • Of the 175 items, 150 are scored and 25 are used to gather statistical data on item performance for future exams.

    What’s in the exam?

    • Assessment, Diagnostic Testing and Interpretation (12%)
      • Health History and Physical Examination
      • Diagnostic Studies/Laboratory Tests
    • Primary Care (12%)
      • Problem Recognition, Management and Referral
      • Health Screening, Education and Counseling
    • Gynecologic and Reproductive Health (35%)
      • Reproductive Anatomy and Physiology
      • Gynecologic Disorders 
      • Fertility Awareness and Contraception 
      • Male Sexual and Reproductive Health
    • Obstetrics (29%)
      • Anatomy and Physiology of Pregnancy
      • Prenatal Care
      • Assessment of Fetal Well Being
      • Medical and Obstetrical Complications of Pregnancy
      • Postpartum Care and Complications
    • Pharmacology (9%)
      • Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics
      • Pharmacotherapeutics 
    • Professional Issues (3%) 
      • (e.g. Legal, Ethics, Safety, Quality Improvement)

    Step 7: Get a Job As a Women’s Health NP

    Now you’re ready to get your dream job. Congratulations!

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    Part Six What are the Continuing Education Requirements for Women's Health Nurse Practitioner?

    CEU hours will vary based on the state of licensure. For each state an individual is licensed, CEU hours will be required. Generally, NPs are required to have a minimum of 75 contact hours of continuing education in the specialty area (orthopedics).

    Additionally, even though they are functioning in an APRN role, they must maintain their RN certification.  In order for an individual to renew their RN license, they will need to fill out an application, complete a specific number of CEU hours, and pay a nominal fee. Each state has specific requirements and it is important to check with the board of nursing prior to applying for license renewal.

    A detailed look at Continuing Nurse Education hours can be found here.

    Part Seven What is the Career Outlook for a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner?

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the career outlook for NPs is excellent. As of 2018, there were 189,100 Nurse Practitioners in the United States, while in 2028 there is an expected need of 242,400 providers. This is a 28% growth. 

    Additionally, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has projected that there will be a shortage of up to nearly 9000 obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYN) by 2020, which will grow to a shortage of up to 22,000 by 2050. Women’s Health NPs will fill that void. 

    A research study from 2019 found that the following 10 metropolitan areas most likely to experience a shortage: 

    1. Las Vegas, Nevada
    2. Salt Lake City, Utah
    3. Miami, Florida
    4. Riverside, California
    5. Los Angeles, California
    6. Buffalo, New York
    7. Jacksonville, Florida
    8. Detroit, Michigan
    9. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    10. Dallas, Texas

    Furthermore, it was determined that the number of OB/GYNs is not the only concern. The researchers also highlighted the importance of the demographics of practicing providers. The report found that nationally, 35% of OB/GYNs are 55 years and older and of the 50 evaluated areas, there are 33 in which at least one-third of practicing OB/GYNs are 55 years or older.

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    Part Eight Where Can I Learn More about Becoming a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner?

    Becoming a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner is a rewarding and fulfilling career. This role allows individuals to not only care for pregnant women, but also for pre-menarche and postmenopausal as well as everyone in between. 

    Part Nine Other Nurse Practitioner Specialties

    1. General Nurse Practitioner
    2. Family Nurse Practitioner
    3. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
    4. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
    5. Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
    6. Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner
    7. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
    8. Emergency Nurse Practitioner
    9. Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

    Part Ten Women's Health NP FAQs

    • What is a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner?

      • A Women’s Health NP is a highly specially trained Advanced Practice Registered Nurse who focuses on the care of women throughout their lives. They focus on conditions that are unique to women and focus on health promotion, disease prevention, health education, and helping women make smart lifestyle choices.
    • What can a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner do?

      • A Women’s Health NP focuses on reproductive, obstetric, and gynecological health of women of all ages. Women’s Health NPs provide gynecologic care, low and high-risk pregnancy management, family planning, sexually transmitted infection diagnosis and treatment, and primary care to women. Their scope of practice includes health care management, disease prevention, and health promotion.
    • How much do Women's Health Nurse Practitioners make?

      • According to Glassdoor.com Women’s Health NPs make on average $110,076 per year. 
    • Can a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner deliver babies?

      • Yes, a Women’s Health NP can deliver a baby. Some states will allow them to deliver independently while others will require an MD or Certified Midwife to be present at the time of birth. 

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