Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) Graduate Certificate Programs
Graduate certificate programs that offer training in the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) specialization are non-degree, graduate-level programs that prepare Registered Nurses (RNs) for state licensure, national certification, and professional careers in advanced practice women’s health nursing. These programs are designed to provide graduate-trained RNs who hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and/or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree with only those courses and clinical hours required to qualify for state licensure and/or the National Certification Corporation’s (NCC) Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (WHNP-BC) credential. Thus, WHNP graduate certificate programs offer RNs and APRNs who have already completed general advanced nursing coursework and clinical training via an MSN or DNP program with a direct, one- to two-year pathway to becoming a WHNP that does not require the investment of time and resources it would take to pursue another full graduate degree program.
Women’s Health Nursing Explained
Women’s health nursing involves direct patient care, including the diagnosis, management, and treatment of chronic, acute, and episodic illness and disease, with a special focus on medical issues that are unique to and commonly encountered by women. Like other types of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) and Nurse Practitioners (NP), WHNPs are trained and qualified to provide comprehensive nursing and healthcare services to patients across the lifespan and throughout the continuum of care, in hospitals, medical centers, reproductive health clinics, residential care facilities, and other places where medical care is administered. This includes performing physical examinations, taking patient histories, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, coordinating patient care with physicians and other allied health professionals, and prescribing evidence-based treatments and medications subject to the prescriptive authority granted to RNs in their state.
In addition to general NP responsibilities, WHNPs are trained to address the specific health concerns of women. This may include but is not limited to taking obstetric and gynecological histories; addressing issues around pregnancy, contraception, reproductive health, infertility, and menopause; educating patients about environmental and situational health risks to women; and providing evidence-based medical advice and counseling to women regarding a broad range of health and wellness concerns. Thus, while WHNPs are trained to handle a broad range of clinical and administrative responsibilities, their area of practice requires specialized knowledge of women’s health issues, as well the skills to effectively perform breast cancer and STD screenings, pap smears, pregnancy testing, and other clinical procedures associated with the care and treatment of female patient populations.
Identifying and Classifying WHNP Graduate Certificate Programs
A graduate certificate in nursing program is a professional training program offered by an accredited academic institution, typically through a college, school, or department of nursing with programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). NP graduate certificate programs represent the distinct subset of nursing certificate programs that provide training in a clinical nursing specialization and prepare RNs for additional licensure and/or certification in that nursing specialty. Among NP graduate certificate programs, there are programs that focus on preparing RNs and APRNs to become licensed and/or certified WHNPs.
Depending on the school, these programs may be referred to as graduate, post-graduate, post-masters, or post-MSN certificate programs. Admissions requirements also vary by school and it is important for students to understand the differences before applying to ensure they have the qualifications required to be eligible for admission. Most programs typically fall into one of the following three types:
- Post-MSN WHNP certificate programs designed for RNs who have MSN or DNP degree in any specialization
- Post-MSN WHNP certificate programs that require RNs to hold an MSN or DNP in an NP/APRN specialty
- Post-MSN WHNP certificate programs that require applicants to have MSN or DNP training in a specific NP/APRN specialty (not as common as the previous two types)
For RNs who have a graduate degree in nursing administration or nursing education, or for clinical nurse leaders, it is important to find a program that does not require APRN licensure or an MSN degree with a specialization in an area of APRN practice for admission. Conversely, APRNs who are looking to add a new specialty have more options as they can typically apply to either type of program without having to worry about repeating courses they have already taken (see below for more information on the gap analysis process that is used to determine which courses students must complete in their certificate program).
Prior training requirements for admission to WHNP graduate certificate programs may also include the successful completion of graduate-level courses in advanced physiology/pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, and advanced patient assessment. Many programs offer these prerequisites, commonly referred to as the “Three P’s,” as an optional component of their WHNP graduate certificate curriculum to ensure that RNs who need coursework in one or more of these areas in order to qualify for NP licensure and/or certification have the opportunity to complete these requirements. Finally, there are WHNP graduate certificate programs that prefer or require applicants to have had one or more years of experience in clinical nursing.
WHNP Graduate Certificate Coursework
Curricular requirements for WHNP certificate programs vary by school and by program, but generally consist of a core cluster of two or three didactic courses that cover issues, theories, and principles specific to women’s health nursing, coupled with two or three clinical courses in which students apply what they are learning to real clinical work under the guidance of a qualified preceptor in a women’s health medical care setting. In addition, graduate certificate programs in nursing typically conduct a gap analysis for each student who is admitted to the program. A gap analysis is a process that determines the specific courses and number of clinical hours a student needs in order to qualify for state licensure and/or WHNP-BC professional certification, one or both of which is generally required in order to practice as an WHNP. For example, while many WHNP graduate certificate programs require courses in the “Three P’s,” these requirements are typically waived pending a gap analysis for RNs who have already successfully completed coursework in these areas as part of their previous graduate degree program, as well as for APRNs whose previous graduate coursework also covered these areas.
While names and descriptions of courses vary by program, WHNP graduate certificate programs generally offer courses that prepare RNs to handle the preventative, primary, and acute care of female patients; recognize signs of disease, illness, and various other physiological and psychological conditions in women; and manage illnesses common in the female patient population in coordination with attending physicians and other medical professionals. The list below provides an overview of the types of courses that are commonly offered as part of a WHNP graduate certificate program:
- Contemporary Issues in Women’s Healthcare and the Role of the WHNP – An examination of the scope of practice and the role played by WHNPs in the current healthcare system.
- Pharmacology for the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner – The medications and other pharmacological treatments commonly used by WHNPs, and clinical decision-making regarding these treatments.
- Primary Prevention and Care Management in Women’s Health – An overview of preventative care measures and the management of health and wellness for women across the lifespan.
- Primary Care Management of Gynecological Clients – The principles and practices of gynecology and the role of the WHNP in caring for gynecological clients.
- Management and Care of the Obstetrical and Post-Partum Needs of Women and Families – The role of the WHNP in caring for patients and their families before, during, and after pregnancy.
The format and structure of WHNP graduate certificate program clinical rotations and/or practicums is another factor that varies by program. However, most programs require a minimum of 500 hours of supervised clinical experiences at a site approved by the program and under the direction of a qualified preceptor. While some programs have facilities that allow students to complete some or all of these supervised hours at a teaching hospital or clinic on or near the school’s campus, other programs assist students in finding clinical placements at off-campus sites (this is especially common for online students). It is advisable for students to contact a program administrator regarding clinical placements prior to initiating the application process.
Online WHNP Post-Graduate Certificate Programs
Most WHNP graduate certificate programs are designed to accommodate RNs who intend to continue working while in school. Online instruction is one way that many programs provide RNs and APRNs with the flexibility to take advanced graduate nursing courses while still working full or part-time. Through the deployment of online teaching techniques and distance-learning technologies, schools are able to provide students with a more convenient and flexible alternative to traditional campus-based classroom instruction and to extend the reach of a program to students who live outside of a school’s immediate geographic area. There are various types of online programs that afford varying degrees of convenience and flexibility. Some online programs offer all or most of their didactic instruction via learning management systems (LMSs), which is a generic term for web-based instructional platforms that support the streaming of live and/or pre-recorded lectures, instructional modules, discussion boards, virtual class sessions, and other learning activities. Other programs offer a mix of campus-based and online courses and/or courses that combine online instruction with in-person campus-based meetings. These programs are generally classified as blended or hybrid online programs and may be impractical for students who do not live within commuting range of the school offering the program.
Regardless of whether the program is fully online or offered in a hybrid format, students are required to complete in-person clinical hours at program-approved sites. Online programs generally allow students to complete their clinical hours at a site near their home or workplace, assuming a suitable location and preceptor can be identified. While some programs match students to preceptors and sites, others require students to find their own placements and preceptors. Students who are considering an online program offered by a school in another state may want to confer with a program administrator about the clinical placement process before applying to the program*.
As noted previously, not all online programs are alike. For example, some online programs do not require students to attend any campus visits, while others hold a limited number of campus-based sessions. These sessions, commonly referred to as on-campus intensives (OCIs), residencies, or immersion sessions, may be used for orientations, workshops, seminars, hands-on labs, and other instructional activities that benefit from face-to-face instruction. While the duration of campus visits varies by program, they typically do not last longer than a week and can be as short as one weekend. WHNP graduate certificate programs that require more than three campus visits per year are classified as hybrid online programs by GraduateCertificates.com.
Finally, there are two modes of online instruction that can impact the relative convenience, flexibility, and structure of an online program: synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Synchronous instruction incorporates live-streamed lectures and virtual class sessions that require students to be logged on to a program’s LMS as specified times. Asynchronous instruction does not have a real-time component and encompasses pre-recorded lectures, learning modules, and assignments that can be accessed and completed whenever it is convenient for students, within parameters laid out by course instructors. While asynchronous instruction affords more scheduling flexibility, it requires greater amounts of self-motivation and self-discipline. Synchronous instruction is more rigid than asynchronous instruction, but it provides students with a more structured learning experience that is similar to a traditional campus-based program.
Examples of Online Post-MSN WHNP Certificate Programs
The programs listed below are offered by accredited colleges and universities that have nursing programs accredited by the ACEN or CCNE. They are meant to provide a representative overview of WHNP graduate certificate programs that are currently offered online.
Kent State University offers an online Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) Post-Master’s Certificate program through its ACEN-accredited College of Nursing. The program, which requires the completion of 21 credits of coursework and clinicals, does not require any campus visits but does require students to complete up to 675 hours of clinicals. Licensed RNs who hold a graduate degree in nursing (MSN or DNP) are eligible for the program regardless of their current area of specialization. The program can be completed in two years of part-time enrollment. For more information on the program, visit the Kent State College of Nursing at www.kent.edu/nursing.
The University of South Alabama offers an online Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) Post-Graduate Certificate program through its CCNE-accredited College of Nursing. The program is designed for MSN and DNP program graduates regardless of their area of specialization. However, applicants to the program are required to have at least two years of experience in an area of nursing deemed appropriate for the WHNP specialization track. Students in the program must complete up to 33 credits of coursework and clinicals, subject to a gap analysis. The program’s clinical requirements include up to 600 hours of practicums, and students are required to attend one clinical instruction session at the school’s simulation lab. For more information on the program, visit the University of Southern Alabama’s College of Nursing at www.southalabama.edu.
Thomas Jefferson University offers a Women’s Health-Gender Related Nurse Practitioner Post-Master’s Certificate program with a WHNP curriculum through its CCNE-accredited Jefferson College of Health Professions. Students are required to attend one campus-based orientation session at the start of the program and may be required to attend additional campus visits for one or more of the three clinical courses that are part of the WHNP curriculum. The program consists of a total of six courses that include 673 supervised clinical hours. The program can be completed in two years of part-time enrollment. For more information on the program, visit the Jefferson College of Health Professions at www.jefferson.edu.
More Graduate Certificates in Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
*In addition to inquiring about the clinical placement process, it is also important to note that online programs may not be authorized to admit students from all 50 states, therefore, students should speak with an admission advisor before applying to an out-of-state online program to ensure the program can admit students from their state of residence. In addition, licensing requirements for WHNP vary by state, so students should review the guidelines for licensure in their state of residence to ensure the online program they choose will provide the training needed to meet those requirements.
Additional Graduate Certificates in Nursing
- AGACNP Graduate Certificate Programs
- AGPCNP Graduate Certificate Programs
- FNP Graduate Certificate Programs
- Nurse Educator Graduate Certificate Programs
- Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate Programs
- Nursing Administration Graduate Certificate Programs
- PACNP Graduate Certificate Programs
- PMHNP Graduate Certificate Programs
- PPCNP Graduate Certificate Programs
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