With over seven million people in the United States receiving medical care at home, it is no wonder that home health nursing is one of the fastest growing areas in the field.
What Duties do Home Health Nurses Perform?
Home health nurses care for patients of all ages that have an acute or terminal illness, a permanent disability, or long-term health problems. Because of the various conditions they treat, they have several duties including:
Assessment, Observation, and Treatment
These nurses monitor vital signs, change bandages, and watch for changes in behavior or condition. They report directly to the patient’s family members and physician, especially if they believe a new condition is developing or if the current one is worsening. If nurses have the proper qualifications, they may help patients with exercising as well as perform physiotherapy treatments.
According to the Joint Commission, homebound patients usually feel isolated and are prone to depression. One of the main responsibilities of home health nurses is to provide companionship to their patients by getting to know them on a more personal level. Many nurses know things such as a patient’s favorite television show, what authors they enjoy reading, and what they like to eat for dinner.
Home health nurses also help patients with daily tasks including bathing, eating, getting in and out of bed, grooming, and toileting. Depending on the agency they work for, they may be responsible for providing light housekeeping such as laundry and meal preparation.
The nurses have licensing that allows them to administer medication to patients, including intravenous medications. They can alter a dosage with a physician’s approval, however, they are never allowed to prescribe medications. Nurses also make sure patients are taking their prescription at the appropriate time(s).
Educational requirements to become a home health nurse depend on if you choose to become a licensed practical nurse or a registered nurse.
In some locations, licensed practical nurses are known as licensed vocational nurses. It is possible for a student to enroll in a state-approved certificate program, but many employers prefer to hire LPNs that obtained an Associate of Science in Nursing degree. This takes two years to complete, and courses include anatomy, first aid, physiology, and practical clinical work.
Obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree takes four years to complete, and courses include anatomy, chemistry, microbiology, and clinical and laboratory work.
To work as a home health nurse, you will need to pass the National Certification Licensure Examination at the LPN or RN level. It is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, and all fifty states require nurses to earn a license before they can begin their career. It is important to study for the exam in order to give yourself the best chance to pass on the first attempt.
The Home Health Care Nurse certification is no longer offered.
Job Outlook and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses can expect a job growth of 19%. This is partially due to an increasing emphasis on preventive health care and advances in technology that allow more conditions to be treated.
The Bureau also states that home health care services make up 6% of the workforce, and in 2014, the average yearly salary for home health registered nurses was $69,110. Salary.com reports that in 2027, the salary could reach approximately $90,000.
Anyone who wishes to work as a home health nurse should be willing to work long hours, have good communication and listening skills, and be able to work well under stress or in emotionally trying situations. If you have any questions about this rewarding career, please contact us.