How to Become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Job Duties and Responsibilities
What Are the Education Requirements for a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner?
What Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Certification is Needed?
6 Common Steps to Becoming a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
Everyone’s journey is different and there’s no single or “right” way to become a women’s health nurse practitioner. Wherever you are along the nursing path—just getting started or already immersed in the profession—these steps may help you make informed decisions about your future and help answer your preliminary questions about how to become a women’s health nurse practitioner.
- Get an Associate or Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing
Becoming a nurse practitioner requires advanced health care knowledge, meaning nurse practitioners must hold at least a graduate degree—and WHNPs are no exception. Before getting a graduate degree, however, you’ll need to complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Bachelor’s degrees in nursing programs typically take four years to complete, while associate degrees typically last two to three years. Although bachelor’s degrees take longer to complete, they are generally necessary for enrollment in graduate school (unless the program is an RN to MSN bridge program) and may be required by certain employers.
- Sit for the NCLEX-RN Exam
Before becoming a nurse practitioner, you will have to become a registered nurse (RN). A key step in receiving your RN license is passing the NCLEX-RN exam, the national nursing exam offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). The NCLEX tests candidates on their knowledge of safe care management, health promotion and maintenance, and psychological and physiological integrity.
To register for the NCLEX, you need an Authorization to Test (ATT) from your state’s nursing regulatory body. Afterward, you can sign up for the exam and prepare for test day. Keep in mind that there is a $200 testing fee for U.S. applicants.
- Obtain Up to Two Years of Clinical Experience
Once you become a registered nurse, it’s time to enter the field. Acquiring at least a year of full-time clinical experience is not only a requirement to enroll in some MSN programs, but it’s also an opportunity to decide whether you would like to specialize in women’s health. While a number of registered nurses work in hospitals, some work in physician’s offices, schools, and outpatient centers. These are all settings where you can gain the relevant clinical experience for a women’s health nurse practitioner role.
- Graduate with Your Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Degree
The length of MSN programs varies by school and the level of education you’ve completed before enrolling. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, completing an MSN in women’s health nursing practice generally takes one to three years depending on whether you’re a part-time or full-time student.
Many accredited programs involve in-person clinical experiences where you develop hands-on nurse practitioner skills. Your clinical experience will prepare you to handle the full scope of women’s health issues, from prenatal to menopausal care. Learn more about applying to nursing school.
- Become a Board-Certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
After completing graduate school, nurse practitioners typically pursue certification in the specialty or patient area in which they would like to practice. There are a number of boards that issue professional certifications for nurse practitioners, including the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
The accrediting body that offers WHNP certification however is the National Certification Corporation. As previously mentioned, the NCC administers the Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner Exam, which aspiring WHNPs typically need to pass in order to earn their credential. To maintain your status as a board-certified women’s health NP, you’ll have to complete continuing education requirements every three years. Be sure to check with your state’s guidelines for licensed nurse practitioners, as requirements to practice vary by location.
- Begin the Search for Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Jobs
When it’s time to search for your first job as a WHNP, you may take advantage of the wide array of resources available online. Here are two examples:
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners has a database of nurse practitioner job openings, including women’s health nurse jobs, that allow you to search by location and keywords. Additionally, the AANP JobCenter has numerous articles and resources for nurses beginning the job hunt, including resume, interviewing, and networking tips, as well as one-on-one career counseling sessions.
The Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health’s (NPWH) CareerCenter also offers a database of job openings for nurses seeking employment.