Women are affected by family, friends, work, community and spirituality in a very different way from men. Their biological and psychological make-up and their response to illnesses and treatment are also quite distinct. Women’s health nursing is the discipline that has evolved to cater to women-specific health issues based on all these factors. The traditional role of a midwife for assistance during childbirth has been extended into the women’s health nursing practitioner (WHNP) in modern times. The WHNP is a registered nurse having advanced training focused on the primary health care needs of women across the life cycle. This stream of nursing is not only limited to treating sickness or disease; it also spreads awareness about the impact that the lifestyle has on a woman’s general well-being, and helps them to make healthy choices.
Areas Covered under Women’s Health Nursing:
Women’s health nursing encompasses the entire well-being of the woman, including the physical, psychological, spiritual and social aspects. This practice involves multiple disciplines, such as family planning, pre-natal care, STD screening and follow-up, as well as complex cases of sexual dysfunction, menopause, high-risk pregnancies, postpartum depression, infertility and eating disorders. Gynecology obviously plays an important part in women’s health nursing.
Women’s health nursing also treats acute and chronic health conditions that plague women. Other aspects are mental health, psychology, aesthetics and general counseling in all these areas. Women’s health nursing thus caters to all phases of womanhood, right from adolescents through the child-bearing years, up to old age.
Roles Performed in Women’s Health Nursing:
There are many aspects to this stream of healthcare. A women’s health nursing practitioner is trained in providing diagnosis and treatment for all the health issues pertaining to women. They first assess all the available physical and emotional health care records of the patient, and identify the problems, if any. The patient’s health care provider is consulted and a detailed health care plan is drawn up. The patient is educated about the relevant health issues, the proposed treatment and preventive measures for the future. From time to time, the WHNP follows up with patients to see that they are availing of the health services at their disposal.
Besides assessment and treatment, a WHNP also promotes good health and disease prevention. Counseling is offered to individuals or to groups, on topics that commonly affect women and are tied in with the lives they lead. The aim of women’s health nursing is to keep health levels optimal and health costs low.
Qualifications and Education:
WHNP is a specialty educational stream for registered nurses, which leads to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. In addition, there is a national certification program available across the U.S., although some states do not make it mandatory. These qualifications boost a nurse’s employment opportunities, earning potential and career path.
Courses of higher education are available to those wishing to specialize in cardiovascular health, oncology, infertility, geriatrics, endocrinology, high-risk pregnancy and other subspecialty women’s health areas. This includes performing ultrasounds and other advanced technical procedures. Nurses that undertake WHNP training usually have prior field experience in some or the other area of women’s health. Extensive clinical experience is a pre-requisite to undertake education in women’s health nursing.
Behavioral Skills in Women’s Health Nursing:
There are several inherent skills that make a good WHNP. People aspiring for this profession should be compassionate by nature. They should have good inter-personal communication skills; being a patient listener and also being able to get patients to follow instructions. They should be able to make unbiased decisions using critical thinking. WHNPs are often faced with making decisions that go against ethical and legal principles, but they are trained to abide by them.
Places to Practice Women’s Health Nursing:
Several work options await the qualified WHNP. There are so many places where women need and seek health care; it is provided to them at community health centers, out-patient care, long-term care, physician’s offices, employee health facilities in business organizations, college health clinics and nursing homes, to name a few. Innovative and ambitious individuals can also start a private practice to attend to patients in one’s own clinic.
Other Professional Options:
Professionals with many years of experience in women’s health nursing can teach others and decide the curriculum for WHNP courses. They can apply nursing theory to clinical practice, functioning as consultants, researchers and administrators in the field of women’s health. They study the relationships between social rank, economic status, political power, ethnicity, cultural background, sexual preference and their effect on women’s health. They can also take an active part in decision-making about women’s health needs in society, keeping women foremost in mind. In this way, their contributions cover the entire gamut of women’s health care.
Women of today are becoming aware of the strong connection between various aspects of their life and the state of their health. They are also realizing the need to be in good health in order to lead better lives. The significance of women’s health nursing is increasing as women gain more awareness and a better understanding of their unique health needs.