St. Thomas University's Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program prepares nurses to serve as primary care providers. The family nurse practitioner, or FNP, is in a unique position to diagnose and treat most medical conditions, serving as a primary care provider for many patients in their communities.
The online MSN-FNP program at STU includes a course on women's health, which explores the specific health challenges and needs of this population.
Women's Medical Needs
There are some health concerns that everyone shares, and reducing risk for illness along with boosting wellness tend to improve quality of life for all. Healthful diets and regular exercise are very beneficial to all patients. And everyone will require treatment for acute illnesses and chronic conditions as they arise. These health matters are standard across the board.
On the other hand, some common health concerns may affect women differently than they affect men. Even symptoms may differ between the genders. For example, the CDC reports that almost as many women as men die from heart disease each year. However, heart disease symptoms and heart attack warnings are different in women than in men. Knowing the specific symptoms of a heart attack in women can help providers take the necessary actions as quickly as possible.
Women's sexual health needs, also different from those of men, begin with the onset of puberty and continue throughout their lives.
How the FNP Cares for Women
Nurse practitioners use an integrative approach to treat their patients. Through patient history, physical examination, diagnostic tests and lab work, they gather the information to guide patient treatment. Women's health experts use this data to help women manage stress, reduce risk for osteoporosis and manage chronic conditions like heart disease. In many circumstances, FNPs can prescribe medications like statins to manage cholesterol and mega-doses of vitamin D to support overall health.
FNP women's health specialists can help patients manage fertility and reproduction. They help women discover and consider their best options to support or prevent pregnancy. They can typically prescribe oral contraceptives (prescription privileges vary by state), and they can install and remove birth control devices. FNPs can oversee a woman's health throughout the stages of a pregnancy, from prenatal to postnatal care.
Once the reproductive window has closed, FNPs can aid a woman's transition into menopause by prescribing hormones and recommending supplements to relieve symptoms. They can also advise on specific concerns like heart health and bone density, which are both affected by menopause.
Women's Health FNPs Bridging the Gap
The American Association of Medical Colleges predicts a physician shortage of up to 122,000 by the year 2032. The gap must be filled with skilled practitioners to provide access to care for all patients, from rural communities to urban areas. Since family nurse practitioners can fill the role of a primary care provider, this physician shortage is less likely to leave patients without the healthcare they need.
FNPs with a specialization in women's health can also provide the annual checkups women need. These wellness visits enable the provider to identify issues before they become major health concerns.
The pursuit of earning a Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner has the potential to benefit not only the nurses who undertake this educational path, but also the untold numbers of women who need and deserve this vital care.
Sources:American Association of Medical Colleges: New Findings Confirm Predictions on Physician Shortage
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