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When Angela Ferrari-Walczak, WHNP-BC, was an undergraduate, she thought that she wanted to become an OBGYN. As time passed, though, she realized that her passion was nursing. “I knew that eventually I would go for my nurse practitioner degree,” she says.
But after graduation, while she wanted to work on an OB floor, there were no positions open. So she worked in neurology. Throughout the years, she retained that interest in women’s health, and after a finding a program she liked, she pursued her nurse practitioner degree in women’s health.
Today, Ferrari-Walczak works as a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) at The Institute for Gynecology Care at Mercy in Maryland. She describes a typical day at her job:
“As a WHNP, our typical day is close to a typical day as an OBGYN in the office. We can see patients for their well-woman visits, diagnose and treat issues related to the female population, perform minor procedures, provide education and counseling, answer phone calls and messages, manage diagnostic tests, and overall be the resource to the patients within the practice. I only do GYN; however, I have also trained in OB, so other WHNPs can monitor women throughout their pregnancies as well.”
According to Ferrari-Walczak, one of the biggest challenges for WHNPs is that most people don’t know that they exist. “There are not a lot of us out there, but in school, we live and breathe all there is to know about women’s health. So we are great resources to patients and the community,” she says.
For nurses looking to become WHNPs, Ferrari-Walczak says that one problem is that there aren’t a lot of programs for it. While she was working at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Ferrari-Walczak says that she was initially looking for into a Master’s program. After taking some classes, she realized how much she enjoyed them and discovered that women’s health was the program she wanted to pursue.
In a little over three years, Ferrari-Walczak earned her WHNP through a program at Drexel University. Back then, she was working full-time as a staff nurse on a neurology floor, and she was able to work the program around her schedule. “The first two years were general education classes, and I was able to listen to lectures on my own time,” she says. “Once I got into the core classes during the last year and did my clinicals, it was a bit difficult managing time. But I got through it. The year went so fast, though. It has paid off in the end.”
Ferrari-Walczak stresses that if you’re interested in pursuing a career in women’s health and are thinking of going back to school, be sure to check with your employer to see if they will offer tuition reimbursement. Drexel offered her a discount since she worked at Hopkins, and Hopkins helped her to pay for it. “It definitely helped me to achieve my dreams,” she says.
“You need a passion for it. If you have found your passion in women’s health, then this is the perfect position for you. Being a WHNP is good for those nurses who also do not wish to pursue a midwife career,” says Ferrari-Walczak.
“The greatest rewards are hearing praises from patients about myself, the physicians that I work for, the office, and the office staff — especially from those women who haven’t found a GYN they liked until they see me,” says Ferrari-Walczak. “The surgeons I work for specialize in endometriosis, and it is amazing to see women come in who have had chronic pain for years and then they get brought to us, get properly diagnosed and treated, and then they are finally pain free.”
To learn more about becoming a WHNP, visit here.