After gaining one to two years of work experience on a medical-surgical floor, the career opportunities that are available to a nurse become virtually limitless. While some clinicians will continue their employment journey in a traditional healthcare setting, others will choose to pursue a career in a non-traditional work environment. Home health nursing is a non-traditional employment option that provides clinicians with independence and autonomy. Keep reading to find out what you can expect from a career as a home health nurse.
What is a home health nurse?
A home health nurse, also known as a home care nurse, provides one-on-one care in a patient’s home. Most of the time, the patients that a home care nurse treats have been discharged from a hospital or other medical care setting. Home health nurses are primarily responsible for ensuring a patient’s continued recovery and for monitoring for any potential complications that would result in readmittance to a healthcare facility.
Depending upon their experience and training, a home health nurse may provide other specialized services (i.e. pain management, wound care, hospice care). Home care nurses always work under the direction of the patient’s physician and may be responsible for managing/directing other members of the patient’s care team (i.e. nursing assistants or non-medical home care providers).
What types of conditions does a home health nurse treat?
Home healthcare services are designed to help patients rest and convalesce in the comfort of their own home. Nurses that work in home healthcare may work with one patient on a long-term, full-time basis or they may visit multiple patients each day. Furthermore, a home care nurse may treat a patient’s chronic and/or acute condition(s). The following list is illustrative of the types of conditions that a home health nurse provides care for:
• Alzheimer’s Disease;
• Chronic kidney disease;
• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD);
• Heart disease;
• Recovery from illness or surgery; and
• Chronic conditions or injuries.
What are typical job duties for a home care nurse?
Home healthcare nursing is a rewarding career path that is available to both registered nurses (RN) and licensed practical nurses (LPN). However, the specific jobs duties that home healthcare clinicians will perform varies based on credentials.
For instance, a home health RN would be responsible for:
• Performing head-to-toe physical assessments;
• Developing care plans with the patient’s physician;
• Administering medications (including intravenous infusions);
• Drawing labs;
• Providing wound care and dressing changes;
• Taking vital signs;
• Assisting with activities of daily living (i.e. bathing, toileting, grooming) and
• Assisting with mobility.
A home healthcare LPN would be responsible for:
• Administering medications (excluding intravenous infusions);
• Providing wound care and dressing changes;
• Assisting with activities of daily living;
• Assisting with mobility; and
• Reporting any concern(s) the patient may have to the supervising RN.
What education and/or experience does a home health nurse need to have?
The first step in pursuing a career as a home care nurse is to fulfill the educational requirements requisite for a RN or LPN program. For instance, RNs must graduate from a two- or four-year, state-approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). LPNs wishing to work as a home health nurse will need to obtain a diploma from an accredited, state-approved program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN).
After a nurse has completed the educational requirements, they will need to acquire experience in a medical-surgical and/or critical care setting. One to two years of work experience in these settings is strongly advised before making the transition to home healthcare.
What skills are needed to succeed as a home care nurse?
To succeed as a home health nurse, a clinician will need to have strong interpersonal skills. The ability to actively listen to the patient’s concerns and clearly communicate the plan of care (as well as empathy) will be vital to forging trust and rapport with the patient. Furthermore, some home care patients may have limited communication abilities, so demonstrating patience is a must.
While a home care nurse always works under the direction of the patient’s physician, they still need to have a great deal of independence and initiative. Nurses in a home care setting do not have a physician or head nurse physically present, directing their every move. They need to be able to independently make choices that advance the patient’s wellbeing.
Most home health nurses see more than one patient in a day. That is why it is essential for clinicians in this field to have strong organizational and time-management skills. For example, home care nurses must allow enough time at each visit to attend to the patient’s needs while still factoring in time for proper documentation and travel to the next patient’s home.
What are the benefits of working as a home health nurse?
There are several reasons why clinicians enjoy working in a home healthcare setting. For some, it is the opportunity to develop long-term personal relationships with patients and their family members. For others, it is the independence and autonomy that the job offers. Listed below are three of the most popular benefits associated with a career as a home care nurse:
• Flexible Scheduling – Home healthcare is full of full-time and part-time job opportunities. Furthermore, many patients require care during evening hours and on the weekends. This means that there are employment opportunities that fit nearly every schedule.
• Lower Stress Environment – Nursing careers in traditional hospital settings can be stressful (i.e. ERs, ICUs, medical-surgical floors). A home health nurse gets to apply their skills and knowledge in a lower-stress atmosphere that is still professional.
• Professional Development – Home healthcare professionals have multiple opportunities to grow their skill sets and advance their career. For instance, within the field there is high demand for clinicians that are certified in wound care, pain management, gerontology, psychiatric/mental health, etc.
What is the relationship between home healthcare and hospice care?
Like home healthcare, hospice care can be provided in a patient’s home. However, while the aim of home healthcare is to provide treatment that restores the patient’s health and independence, the goal of hospice care is to provide care the keeps the patient as comfortable as possible as they near the end of their life.
In both instances, home health nurses and hospice nurses are responsible for skilled care (i.e. administering medications, providing necessary supplies/equipment, attending to personal care needs). For this reason, many clinicians find it easy to transition between both fields. It is not uncommon to see clinicians that vacillate between positions in home healthcare and hospice care.
What is the outlook for the home healthcare industry?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall healthcare employment is projected to grow by 18% through 2026. However, home healthcare is specifically projected to grow by an impressive 41% in that same time frame. This means that the home healthcare industry will add 1.2M jobs to the healthcare industry in the next six years. A career as a home care nurse is a solid choice for any clinician looking to be a part of an in-demand field.