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What Does a Home Health Care Nurse Do?

As the U.S. population ages and the proportion of older Americans increases in size, the demand for healthcare is expected to grow significantly. Not only are we going to see a need for clinicians in greater numbers, but we are especially going to see the demand increase in areas of healthcare that can have a positive impact on the overall cost of care. Home healthcare, when used in a coordinated effort to keep patients out of the hospital and compliant with treatment regimens, plays an important part in reducing hospital stays and costly readmissions. Home health care nurses play a vital role in the patient care continuum and in compliance with care regimens that ensure better outcomes.

The Education and Licensure Requirements for Home Health Care Nursing

Home health nursing is one of the many career options available within the nursing profession. It is a choice for registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and nurse assistants (NAs). The educational requirements for a home health nurse are dependent on the following nursing certifications:

  • RNs complete an accredited nursing program and obtain an associate’s degree in nursing (AND) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). They also must pass the NCLEX exam to get a license.
  • LPNs complete an accredited nursing program and test for licensure.
  • NAs are unlicensed but can obtain certification.

Understanding What Home Health Care Nurses Do

Home care nurses provide home-based care for patients, typically in the form of follow-up treatment post-discharge from a hospital or other medical care environment. By not being facility-based, home care nurses get to be self-directed and practice efficient time management. They often interact with patients’ families in the course of patient care, so that their clinical proficiency needs to be matched with strong communication skills and comfort with a breadth of cultures and lifestyles. Home health care can be physically demanding and require lifting, turning, or moving patients who need the assistance.

The specific duties of a home health care nurse are largely linked to their credentials and the kinds of care their credentials allow them to provide. Here are some examples:

  • Registered nurses:
    • Medication administration, including intravenous infusions
    • Wound care/ dressing changes
    • Taking vital signs
    • Performing head-to-toe physical assessments
    • Drawing labs
    • Assisting with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, toileting, grooming
    • Assisting with mobility
    • Developing a plan of care with the physician
  • Licensed Vocational Nurses perform the following duties:
    • Medication administration, excluding intravenous infusions
    • Wound care/ dressing changes
    • Taking vital signs
    • Reporting to the supervising RN any concerns the patient may have
    • Assisting with ADLs
    • Assisting with mobility
  • Nurse Assistants perform the following duties:
    • Taking vital signs
    • Report to the supervising RN any concerns the patient may have
    • Assisting with ADLs
    • Assisting with mobility (registered nursing.org, n.d.)

Why to Become a Home Health Care Nurse

Many people want to become nurses without necessarily desirous of working in a hospital environment. Here are some of the reasons home healthcare might be the right career choice for them:

  • More Career Flexibility – Traditional hospital nursing, based on shifts and an often grueling pace, has a strict structure that does not work for everyone. Imagine instead a day of driving to patients’ homes in succession, lots of conversations and problem-solving with each visit. Nurses looking to leave a hospital setting may be especially attracted to this option.
  • Greater Independence – A non-traditional setting like home health care nursing involves more critical thinking and the potential for innovation. If there’s not a doctor nearby, a nurse is more on his or her own to assess the home environment and context.
  • Rewarding Patient Relationships – When a family allows a home health care nurse into the home, there’s a potential for stronger care relationships. These can last for a significant time duration and have a greater impact on patient well-being.
  • Greater Impact – Home health care nurses care for the whole person, in a home environment. This is becoming an even more important and transformative factor in patients’ quality of life, especially for vulnerable populations.

references

nursing.jnj.com, “Five Reasons to Consider a Career as a Home Health Nurse,” June 14, 2017, Retrieved at https://nursing.jnj.com/nursing-news-events/five-reasons-to-consider-a-career-as-a-home-health-nurse.
registerednursing.org, “What Is a Home Health Nurse?,” n.d., Retrieved at https://www.registerednursing.org/specialty/home-health-nurse/.

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