How Does a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Differ from a Certified Nurse Midwife?
Women's Health nurse practitioners are APRN's who specialize in the care of women throughout the lifespan. The focus on reproductive and gynecological health as well as preventive health maintenance. Additionally, some can address specific chronic health issues. Certified Nurse Midwives also manage the reproductive health of women, but focus mainly on pregnancy, labor, and childbirth.
The education for both WHNPs and CNMs is similar. Both are advanced-practice nurses who complete either a master's degree or doctoral degree program. However, students may choose either the Women's Health track or the Certified Nurse Midwife track. While the course of study is similar and may have overlap, the CNM track emphasizes labor, childbirth, and the immediate post-partum and neonatal period.
Both WHNPs and CNMs can work in clinic settings. Women's Health NPs can act as a patient's primary care provider. This means that they can care for patients from an early age through the aging years. They may form long-lasting and life-long relationships with their patients and families. They can work in the inpatient setting as well, such as in emergency rooms or rounding on patients who are admitted with women's health-related conditions. They may even work alongside physicians as first assist during surgical procedures.
In clinics, CNMs educate patients on family planning, prenatal health, and the labor process. CNMs spend a significant amount of time in hospitals and birth centers. They care for patients during the antepartum, intrapartum, and postpartum period. Additionally, they assess and stabilize a newborn following birth. They may also intervene/refer during abnormal birth situations, or when a mother or fetus needs more intensive care.
The duties of a WHNP may include:
- Performing well-woman exams
- Reviewing preventive health needs
- Contraceptive education and prescribing
- Ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests
- Menopause education
- Diagnosing female related diseases that may include cancer, ovarian cysts, infertility, urogynecological disorders
The duties of a CNM may include:
- Family planning
- Contraceptive education and prescribing
- Confirming/dating pregnancy
- Prenatal education
- Screening for potential congenital disabilities
- Monitoring fetal development
- Assessing labor
- Managing complications during labor and referring when necessary
- Performing episiotomies
- Assisting with latching/breastfeeding
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for WHNPs is $100,910 annually compared to $99,770 for CNMs. Advanced-practice nursing, in general, is expected to rise 31% by 2026. This is due mainly to a nation-wide physician shortage and an increased demand for healthcare services as a result of recent healthcare legislation.
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