What Does a Home Health Nurse Do? Qualifications & Responsibilities

What Does a Home Health Nurse Do? Qualifications & Responsibilities

30 December 2019 By Kate

What Does a Home Health Nurse Do? Qualifications & Responsibilities

In general, nursing careers are rewarding, but home health nurses can have especially fulfilling careers knowing that they’re personally making a difference in their patients’ lives every day.

Home health nurses have a lot of flexibility, independence, and autonomy during their workday, compared to the typical structured 12-hour day worked hospital nurses. With the rising costs of inpatient health care, patients may be discharged before they’re ready, which means they often don’t receive all the care they need.

Home health care costs less than regular care at a hospital, which incentivizes patients to go beyond the conventional system. Home health care allows elderly, disabled, terminally ill, chronically ill, and pregnant patients to maintain their independence and comfortable, home environment while receiving similar care to if they were at a hospital.

Home Health Nursing vs. Hospital Nursing

The main difference between home health nursing and conventional nursing is how personalized it is. Home health nurses are the perfect option for patients who may not be able to leave their homes, which gives nurses the ability to provide personal care on a regular basis without interruptions. 

Home health nurses have the opportunity to make an impact on patients of all ages and walks of life. Since they may care for multiple patients simultaneously, home health nurses must travel from patient to patient, often taking their time with each in order to foster connections that wouldn’t normally form in a busy hospital. This allows nurses to keep a close eye on patients so they can ensure proper and consistent treatment. 

Working from a patient’s house makes it easier to treat diseases like diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and congestive heart failure. Routine visitation allows nurses to answer questions about treatment, medication, and symptoms.

Patient Advantages

Patients may prefer home health care over conventional inpatient care because of its individualized nature. For example, home health care supervised by a home health nurse can reduce the risk of infections spread from other patients or procedures. Receiving care from the comfort of their own home allows patients to sleep comfortably and maintain regular social interactions in familiar settings. This can help them feel more in control of their own recovery.

Nurse Advantages

Nurses benefit from the home health care program, too. While their salaries are comparable to their counterparts in hospitals, they maintain exceptional independence, flexibility, and a personal relationship with their patients. Home health nurses may spend most of the day or night with a patient, but it’s much more rewarding to watch a patient recover from within your own care.

Friendly home health nurse and patient

Home Health Nurse Responsibilities

Home health nurses’ responsibilities are similar to those of a conventional nurse. Some of these duties include:

  • Performing assessments
  • Measuring vital signs
  • Providing treatment
  • Caring for wounds
  • Administering IV medication
  • Maintaining paperwork
  • Drawing labs
  • Encouraging and supporting patient morale

Most home health nurse-specific responsibilities are centered around maintaining regular care and watching for changes in health. These longer-term responsibilities may include:

  • Meeting with patients shortly after hospital discharge
  • Educating caregivers
  • Providing palliative care
  • Assisting post-surgery
  • Conducting wellness checks
  • Monitoring medication
  • Advising on diet and nutrition
  • Changing clothes
  • Changing catheters
  • Assessing patient’s home environment
  • Assessing patient’s needs
  • Developing a daily plan of care
  • Lifting or moving patients
  • Assisting with bathing and other bathroom functions
  • Collaborating with family and physicians for optimum care
  • Evaluating patient’s response to treatment
  • Monitoring healing process/progress

How to Be a Good Home Health Nurse

Successful home health nurses have a very specific set of skills. The strengths needed for this position are more specialized than those needed for conventional nursing positions given the individualized and intimate nature of the care. Successful home health nurses must be:

  • Exceptional at communicating with people of all ages
  • Alert at all times regardless of time of day
  • Flexible while working within a family’s schedule
  • Patient, empathetic, and compassionate
  • Organized and detail-oriented
  • Able to work independently
  • Comfortable explaining complex medical information
  • Efficient and effective at managing time
  • Confident in their nursing skills
  • Great at listening and writing
  • An advocate for patients when working with other doctors
  • Physically fit

Home Health Nurse Qualifications

Nurses who are experienced in hospital care often do well as home health nurses because of their extensive clinical practice. Like conventional nurses, home health nurses must have a nursing degree and 1-2 years of nursing experience in critical care. In addition to being registered in their state and certified in CPR, home health nurses must have a valid driver’s license and access to dependable transportation.

Nursing students in classroom at Pioneer Pacific College

Hit the Books

A home health nurse must meet the same educational requirements of conventional nurses. Nurse educational levels range from a 2-year associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), to a 4-year bachelor of science (BSN), to a 2-year master’s program (MSN). Often home health care nurses will be licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) with diplomas from state-approved programs that can be taken at community colleges and technical schools. In order to obtain a nursing license, all nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) administered by their state’s licensing board.

Practice Makes Perfect

No additional education is required to become a home health nurse, but one might consider getting a more advanced or specialized degree to widen the scope of their capabilities. The nursing field can be competitive for job seekers, and extra education, while not required, may help them find a position faster. Completing a more advanced degree is the ideal path if a nurse is interested in pursuing a leadership role down the road. RN-to-BSN programs can assist ADN nurses in getting a bachelor’s degree, and some will even go on to earn an MSN (Master’s in Nursing) in order to concentrate on a specialized track like community health, mental health, or acute care.

Get Specialized

It may be beneficial for home health nurses to have some extra experience working in specialized care. Before working with an independent patient, a home health nurse may want to gain additional experience in the following medical fields:

  • Gerontology
  • Cardiology
  • Orthopedics
  • Pulmonology
  • Pediatrics
  • Community/public health
  • Psychiatric/mental health
  • Medical/surgical care

Where to Start

If the idea of working in the medical field has always intrigued you, but you want to do something a bit more personal and less hectic than work in a hospital, home health care may be the perfect route for you. Home health nurses have the ability to change the lives of patients who need consistent care while maintaining a flexible lifestyle that works well for them and their commitments. 

Home health nurses are highly employable at home health and hospice agencies, medical centers, insurance companies, hospital systems, government organizations, and retirement communities. Pioneer Pacific offers a 50-week nursing program that will prepare nurses for every aspect of the job by building confidence and experience in their talents from within the classroom.

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