DNP—Women's Health Clinical Nurse Specialist

mom-babyAs a Women’s Health Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) in our Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, you will focus on providing care to families during the childbearing continuum: from preconception through the prenatal and birth processes and into the postpartum and early infancy periods.

Women’s Health CNSs offer information about the pregnancy and birth experience to the prospective mother and father, encouraging healthy habits that encourage a positive pregnancy outcome. You will foster healthy, supportive participation of the entire family.

Sites of practice

Women’s Health CNSs most often work in a hospital or institutional setting, providing leadership, consultation, and education support to maternity units in addition to providing expert direct nursing care.

Graduates from our program have taken positions as:

  • Maternity clinical nurse specialist
  • Nurse manager
  • Outreach educator
  • Staff developer


All Doctor of Nursing Practice tracks are offered as full-time study only.

Women’s Health CNS students are prepared to explore and analyze:

  • Normal physiologic changes and psychosocial events during the childbearing cycle
  • Pathophysiologic events and chronic health conditions affecting the mother
  • Fetus and/or neonate in at-risk situations
  • Family adaptations

Year one

Year one of the DNP program is offered in a hybrid format (50 percent in-person, 50-percent distance learning), and requires that you be on campus one day per week. You will complete core DNP academic classwork with peers across all DNP tracks in the School of Nursing. Content of year one courses includes:

  • leadership
  • appraisal and application of evidence to advance practice
  • health equity
  • health systems and policy
  • wellness and health promotion, and
  • quality improvement

Year two

In year 2, students establish the foundation of advanced practice education of the lifespan, which includes:

  • pathophysiology
  • advanced physical assessment, and
  • pharmacology

Students build upon this in track-specific advanced assessment, diagnosis/management, and pharmacology. You will gain advanced practice skills from these academic and lab courses to move into clinical placements during spring quarter.

Year three

As in year two, many courses require in-person attendance with some courses including distance learning methods. In the final year of your program, you will continue clinical training.

In addition, you will work with your supervisory committee to complete a DNP final project in collaboration with a local clinical agency or organization. This project is presented in the form of a final examination.

Role of the DNP

Our DNP program prepares you not only for an advanced practice role but also teaches you how to look at leading-edge research and apply that evidence to your practice.

The DNP program’s additional academic and clinical hours beyond a master’s-level degree gives you a solid foundation to become a leader in the nursing profession. You will work with faculty who are nationally recognized for their research, and also with agencies around the Puget Sound region to gain hundreds of hours of hands-on clinical experience.

By combining advanced practice nursing skills and knowledge of how to evaluate evidence-based research, you are empowered to become a more efficient and effective practitioner.

National certifications

At this time, there is no specific certification for the Women’s Health CNS offered by national certification organizations.

Our Women’s Health CNS curriculum follows the Women’s Health CNS Competencies published by the Association of Women’s Health Obstetric & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) in 2014.


The Doctor of Nursing Practice program at the University of Washington is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (