There are many health issues that afflict women exclusively, such as those pertaining to reproductive health, or that afflict women more significantly than men, such as heart disease. Women’s health issues are an important focal point for many BSN and MSN students looking to make a positive impact on women’s health and advance professionally.
Women’s health issues such as breast, ovarian and other cancers, heart disease, and stroke continually make headlines for the breadth of their devastating effects. Women’s roles in our society make their proclivity to health problems even more concerning, which is why many who enter into professional health care feel compelled to prioritize women’s health issues.
Nursing & Women’s Healthcare
Among the many professional focuses nurses can assume, the women’s health nurse focuses their curriculum of care exclusively on female health issues. These nurses have a myriad of options as to where they wish to focus their careers. Nurses specializing in women’s health work in a variety of areas such as:
- Gynecology & Obstetrics
There are more areas of specialty and subspecialty within this scope. Nurses who focus on women’s health also work in various settings including:
- Private physicians’ offices
- Community health centers
- Nursing homes
Despite what some may think, nurses with a broad range of expertise and educational preparation are eligible to pursue meaningful careers in women’s healthcare. Either a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) opens doors for professions in women’s health care.
While both a BSN and an MSN prepared nurse are eligible to hold positions in the aforementioned fields and work environments, only MSN graduates have the potential to flourish in leadership roles within their designated area of expertise. In addition to increased eligibility to work in leadership, an MSN will also enable nurse specialists to:
- Be eligible for higher rates of income
- Specialize in niche practice areas
The advantages afforded by pursuing an advanced degree are tremendous; online programs that offer advancement from RN to MSN status are especially desirable as they expedite the ability for a nurse to transition into a position with increased professional leverage.
Nursing Specialties for Women’s Health
As noted, nurses who pursue women’s health have the ability to work within a specialized area that enables them to directly and positively impact women from a health care perspective. In general, nurses can provide care to female patients but there are some areas of women’s health care that are highly specialized in which nurses can have a truly meaningful impact.
Pertinent to women’s health exclusively, the majority of roles are focused on obstetrics and gynecological care. However, as noted, ailments like stroke, certain cancers, heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, etc. are known killers of women. These ailments claim more women’s lives than men’s, making them essential focal points for nurses wishing to help women (Some of these focuses will require specific certifications or credentials. Please refer to NursingCertification.org to learn more).
- Cardiac Nurse – With a reported 1.5 million heart attacks per year, heart disease is reportedly the leading cause of death in the United States. Women account for a significant majority among this population who are diagnosed. Nurses who specialize in cardiac care help with patients of all ages and can work in both critical care and private care settings.
- Certified Nurse Midwife – Nurse midwives work with women before, during, and after pregnancy to provide care in a patient-preferred environment. Typically, nurse midwifery involves pregnancies that are classified as minimal risk. When necessary, nurse midwives work with gynecological specialists to provide safe patient care.
- Labor and Delivery (L&D) Nurse – L&D nurses play an essential role in the most dramatic moments of childbearing – the delivery process. These nurses provide health and comfort care to women during their labor and childbirth, and after childbirth or child loss.
- Lactation Consultant – Typically employed by hospitals, and in a limited capacity, lactation consultants specialize in helping new mothers learn to nurse their newborn. This profession lends itself to educational and clinical opportunities as well.
- Mental Healthcare Nurse – There are several types of mental health nurses including psychiatric, rehabilitation, and substance abuse. The qualifications for each nurse-type varies. What is consistent is that mental health nurses all have the ability to work in hospital, clinical, public, or private settings, and all play a tremendous role in two major yet silent destroyers of women: depression and substance abuse.
- Obstetrics & Gynecology (OB/GYN) Nurse – OB/GYN nurses work with women of all ages. They provide guidance to women as they enter and exit their reproductive years. They are sexual health educators as well as comforters. They help women understand their reproductive systems and to identify when there are issues. Among nurses who specialize in women’s health, OB/GYN specialists have some of the broadest roles.
- Oncology Nurse – Possibly one of the most difficult roles is that of an oncology nurse. Oncology nurses work with patients from diagnosis to completion of care. In the case of women, specific cancer-types include ovarian and breast. In addition, women are equally as likely for other types of cancers as their male counterparts.
- Perinatal Nurse – Perinatal nurses assume a niche role in women’s care as they work with women who are pregnant. They help expecting mothers understand prenatal health as well as what the mother can expect during her pregnancy. They also provide follow-up care in addition to guidance on labor and delivery options.
- Reproductive Nurse – This specialty area of women’s health issues pertains specifically to women in their reproductive years, and while it may seem they specialize only in working with women attempting to reproduce, they also work with women as they approach and go through menopause.
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner – This specialty of nurse practitioner focuses on comprehensive care; however, many WHNPs specialize in reproductive care. The focus of care expands to mental health, high-risk pregnancies, education, and other areas.
- Healthcare Systems Management – Although this role isn’t as hands-on medically as the rest, this position could help create policy and procedure change to address women’s health.
Why Pursue Nursing in Women’s Health
Each of these specialty nurses play a critical role in women’s healthcare. Nurses who select a specialty that either directly deals with women’s health issues or that most-strongly and negatively impacts women are positioning themselves to positively impact the overall health of women. Because of the prevalence of their disorders, women need intelligent, passionate, and qualified nurses to invest in providing their care be it in a hospital, clinic, or any other health care setting.
By allowing women’s health to serve as a motivating factor, future BSNs and MSNs have the ability to change women’s health and lives for the better.