Happy 40th Anniversary NPWH and to all of the WHNPs in the United States!! While it may not seem like a time to celebrate with the pandemic ranging across the US, celebrating the good in the world is especially important. Today is NPWH’s birthday and today we celebrate 40 years of excellence in care for women! THANK YOU for making it happen!
Since its inception 40 years ago, the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (originally the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Family Planning) has demonstrated a dedication to excellence in women’s healthcare through its support of women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) and other nurse practitioners (NPs) providing women’s healthcare. The founders established a mission “to assure accessible, quality family planning services and reproductive freedom.” The organization’s goals included advocating for the NP role, offering continuing education, and acting as a resource for clinicians.
I encourage everyone to take a trip down memory lane and review this fun graphic giving an overview of all NPWH – and our members – has accomplished over the years.
While our mission has evolved and expanded along with the role of WHNPs, the original mission and goals remain relevant. Today, our mission is to ensure the provision of quality primary and specialty healthcare to women of all ages by women’s health and women’s health focused nurse practitioners. This includes protecting and promoting a woman’s right to make her own choices regarding her health within the context of her personal, religious, cultural, and family beliefs.
While I have only served in my role as NPWH Chief Executive Officer for a few months, every day I am inspired by the resilience and strength of WHNPs over the past 40 years. I am inspired by our rich history as we look towards to the future.
Ours is a history of providing resources for excellence in clinical practice and education:
In 1979, NPWH joined with AWHONN in its publishing the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner: Guidelines for Clinical Practice and Education. Throughout the years, each edition of the Guidelines has evolved to more fully explain the scope of the WHNP role and the core competencies: client-centered care, primary care, women’s gynecologic, sexual, reproductive, menopause-transition, and post-menopause healthcare, male sexual and reproductive health, obstetric care, and the professional role. Today, the Guidelines, now in its just-released 8th edition and solely an NPWH product, provides the most comprehensive description of WHNP practice and continues to be the defining document on the role of the WHNP. The Guidelines also guides educators in the development of WHNP educational programs.
NPWH is recognized as a leader in providing continuing education (CE) that supports NPs working in all aspects of women’s healthcare. Our Annual NPWH Premier Women’s Healthcare Conference has provided top notch and high quality education on relevant clinical, professional, and policy topics since 1997. Our Women’s Sexual Health Course, established in 2014, has provided over 1000 NPs with knowledge and skills to incorporate quality, evidence-based sexual healthcare into their clinical practice. NPWH currently offers dozens of hours of CE per year through live and virtual events, as well as our e-learning portal.
Thousands of WHNP students and graduates preparing for their national certification examination have completed the online NPWH WHNP Certification Examination Review and Women’s Health Update Course. In recent years we created a student leadership program as well as an academic program leaders’ group to further serve these two communities in supporting them with the challenges they may face in these roles.
Our official NPWH journal, Women’s Healthcare: A Clinical Journal for NPs, is peer-reviewed and focuses on evidence-based information NPs and WHNPs can readily use in clinical practice and in advancing their professional careers.
Ours is a history of powerful advocacy:
We lead discussions at national, state, and local levels to assure women have access to care by WHNPs and work to remove barriers to WHNP education and ensure that our field is as diverse as the women we serve.
We have joined in amicus briefs in support of women’s rights to access the full range of reproductive services, consistent with our mission. We have helped expand Medicare reimbursement to NPs, and worked to ensure that WHNPs were included in policy and regulations affecting NP reimbursement. We have issued position statements on topics ranging from cervical cancer screening to eliminating preventable maternal deaths to providing care to transgender and gender-nonconforming patients.
Today, our top policy priorities include full practice authority with particular attention to implications for WHNPs, access to care, healthcare equity, and reduction of disparities in health outcomes for women across the lifespan, and more. Importantly, we work to ensure that WHNPs voice is heard in these policy discussions. We are the only organization exclusively advocating for women’s health nurse practitioners and about women’s healthcare.
Even as this letter is being written, NPWH is working with policy makers to address maternal mortality and eliminate disparities in maternal health, improve access to obstetric care in rural areas, address the social and structural determinants underlying poor health outcomes that have been brought to light by the COVID crisis, expand Medicaid coverage to at least one year postpartum – and beyond – to assure that women have access to ongoing health care and preventive services, support WHNP education, and continuing to work toward full practice authority for all APRNs.
Because of our history and our present work ours is a future of hope and health for women.
Now, as we navigate a global pandemic, we are still caring for women – women who cannot receive preventative care because clinics are closed or limited. Women who are especially harmed by social and structural determinants of health. Women who are vulnerable or isolated. We continue to advocate, practice, adapt, learn, and care. We’re offering several free webinars touching woman specific issues related to COVID to ensure our members continue to have access to the latest information to care for their patients.
We have big plans for the years to come. While we are excited to take some immediate new steps, including hosting our 23rd Annual Premier Women’s Healthcare Virtual Conference virtually, we are also focused on laying the groundwork for longer term growth and resilience.
In the coming months, we will embark on a strategic planning process that will guide our organization for the next three years. We need all of our members to be part of this process of defining our goals and shaping our future. We are working to create opportunities for members to have their voices heard. It is you, our members, who bring the realities of women’s healthcare, the experiences of the women for whom you provide care, and the professional needs of WHNPs to be able to provide that care to the organization. If you’d like to be involved, please let us know. Together, we will strengthen our profession, diversify our field, and continue to write our history.
It is with great gratitude for our members and leaders that we celebrate 40 fabulous years! Thank you for all you do, for being with us to mark NPWH’s 40th year, and for helping shape the 40 years to come.
Wishing you a happy 40th anniversary,
Chief Executive Officer
National Association for Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (NPWH)