The majority of women's health nurse practitioners specialize in gynecology as well as obstetrics. These nurses are advanced practice registered nurses who need to complete graduate programs in their specialty to meet licensing requirements. Nurse practitioners in this specialty typically need five to six years of training, but the time frame can vary considerably depending on your educational background, which nursing programs you choose and whether you want to gain experience before graduate school.
All women's health nurse practitioners must complete an undergraduate program that prepares you for licensing as a registered nurse. Though a nursing diploma or associate degree program will help you meet these requirements, you need a bachelor's of science in nursing to qualify for a graduate program down the road. BSN programs take four years to complete if you attend full time. Your courses during this time will include chemistry, microbiology, nutrition, physiology and anatomy. BSN programs also have supervised clinical experience requirements you must complete before graduation. Choose a program with clinical experience options in obstetrics or gynecology to gain experience in your specialty.
Registered Nursing Experience
All nurse practitioners need to have a valid license to practice as registered nurses. You can take the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses as soon as you complete your BSN program to become a licensed registered nurse. Some nurse practitioner programs require registered nursing experience. A year or two of women's health nursing experience helps you compete for admission to obstetrics and gynecology nurse practitioner programs. This experience will also give you an advantage over other, inexperienced graduates when you complete your program.
Graduate Education and Certification
Women's health nurse practitioners must complete a master's of science in nursing or doctor of nursing practice program. Universities offer MSN programs with concentrations in women's health or obstetrics and gynecology, which you might need for certification. An MSN program takes about one to two years of full-time study to complete, while a DNP program takes three to four years. Either option will qualify you for licensing and jobs as of 2013. However, organizations like the American Association of Colleges of Nursing are working to change the entry-level education requirement of nurse practitioners to a DNP. In addition, you might need national certification to become a licensed nurse practitioner, depending on state requirements. You can meet this requirement by earning national certification in your specialty. The National Certification Corporation offers a certification in Women's Health Care for nurse practitioners, which requires you to pass a certification exam.
If you have a bachelor's degree in an area other than nursing, you can become an obstetrics and gynecology nurse practitioner in a considerably smaller time frame by taking advantage of accelerated nursing programs. An accelerated BSN program takes an average of 12 to 18 months, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. These programs require an intense schedule of coursework and clinical practice. Generic MSN programs allow you to complete undergraduate prerequisites and earn the master's degree required to work as an advanced practice nurse in approximately three years, but these programs are limited in number and may not offer a women's health concentration.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses
- National Certification Corporation: Certification Exams
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Doctor of Nursing Practice FAQ
- American Nurses Association: Doctor of Nursing Practice FAQ
- NP Central: Nurse Practitioner FAQ
- New York State Education Department: Nurse Practitioner License Requirements
- University of California, San Francisco: MS Specialty Area: Nurse Midwifery / Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Accelerated Programs: The Fast Track to Careers in Nursing
- Inner Body: How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
- California Board of Registered Nursing: General Instructions and Application Requirements for Nurse Practitioner Certification
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