Research data shows us that keeping women healthy is integral to the overall health and well-being of families, communities and entire nations. Consider these facts:
- Women make approximately 80 percent of health decisions – from choosing doctors and scheduling appointments to managing their family’s insurance needs (National Partnership for Women & Families).
- Women encompass 66 percent of caregivers with responsibility for the health needs of elderly loved ones (Family Caregiver Alliance).
- Women make up 91 percent of the American nursing workforce, with only nine percent of male nurses practicing in 2014 (Nursing World).
- Women comprise the majority of the population of the United States at 50.8 percent (U.S. Census Bureau).
Challenges to Women’s Health
The Affordable Care Act has made it possible for more women to insure themselves and their families. However, there are still challenges to the number of MSN-prepared nurses dedicated to the care of women in the United States:
- Less than five percent of NPs currently specialize in Women’s Health (American Association of Nurse Practitioners).
Global statistics for women’ health concerns are nothing short of startling in terms of the inequity of care, particularly in low and mid-income nations. However, American women are not immune to these conditions published by the World Health Organization in their Women & Health report:
- One in every three women in the world has experienced either physical or sexual violence from her partner.
- Every year, more than 2.5 million older women in the world go blind because of the lack of preventive care.
- More than half a million maternal deaths occur globally each year, with 99 percent in developing countries.
- Globally, the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age is HIV/AIDS.
- Suicide is among the leading global causes of death for women between the ages of 20 and 59.
Nurses wishing to advocate for their counterparts in developing nations can find opportunities through groups such as the International Women’s Health Coalition, UN Women and other non-profit agencies. The CDC also publishes a list of Women’s Health Resources where RNs, MSNs and DNPs can make important contributions of skill and knowledge here in U.S.
Women’s Health Needs
It’s no secret that women’s healthcare needs change over the course of time. From the onset of puberty to menopause and beyond, women require the services of well-educated nurses who understand the uniqueness of the female body and health concerns. This includes obstetrics and gynecology, as well as chronic diseases, domestic abuse, mental health, and complications of aging like bone density, vision and hearing.
An article published on Nurse.com addresses the important role that nurses can play in helping women stay healthy. Titled “Prevention Pays Dividends in Women’s Health,” this piece speaks specifically to heart disease, cancer and diabetes – the first, second and seventh leading causes of death in American women, respectively (CDC, Leading Causes of Death – Females, 2013).
Today’s nurses serve as educators and supporters for their female patients, leveraging the ability to recognize problem areas, arrange for screening tests and provide follow-up care. Medical history, nutrition, fitness and stress all affect women’s health and must be considered in establishing overall well being.
Healthy women are empowered women. Focusing your nursing career on women’s wellness is an opportunity to impact the health of families and communities, as well as our own profession. Earning an MSN with a concentration in Women’s Health can be a great way to advance your career – and make a difference – by serving the specialized needs of women.