The combination of more patients asking for early discharge from hospitals in favor of home care and more modern medical technology has increased the need for highly-skilled home health nurses.
Bear in mind that many complex healthcare treatments can also be administered to patients by healthcare practitioners especially for end-of-life patients.
What Is Home Health Nurse?
A home health nurse is a nursing specialist with the appropriate education, training, and certification to provide healthcare in patients’ homes. The healthcare services range from basic nursing duties, such as bathing and dressing, to advanced care including wound care, intravenous therapy, and medication management.
What Do They Do?
Home health nurses usually provide nursing care for disabled, elderly, and terminally ill patients as well as patients suffering from serious illnesses and individuals involved in accidents, among others.
Since each individual has specific needs and wants in healthcare management, home health nurses must work with other healthcare providers including doctors, physical therapists, and even occupational therapists to achieve the desired goals for competent and compassionate patient care.
Depending on the agreement, home health nurses can either make daily visits to the homes of multiple patients or live with a single patient on a long-term, full-time basis. Home health nurses, nonetheless, will perform several or all of the following activities:
- Administer medications according to the dosages set by the patient’s doctor
- Clean and dress wounds as part of wound care
- Document vital signs and health-related symptoms, both physical and mental
- Monitor the patient’s health as well as their needs
- Instruct the patient and his/her family members, caregivers, and home health aides on basic home care
- Provide encouragement and support
Many home health nurses are also trained in providing for:
- Rehabilitation therapies including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language therapy
- Medical social services including behavioral and mental health counseling
- Parental and enteral nutritional therapy
- Palliative care
- Infusion therapy
- Pain management
- Home safety instructions
Patients and their family members should discuss the scope of services that their home health nurses will deliver in the course of the contract. Emphasis must be made that setting realistic expectations of the roles and responsibilities for both parties is a must for a good working relationship.
Where They Work
Home health nurses work in various capacities within the nursing care community including:
- Nurses for patients in their private homes as well as in hospices and nursing homes
- Consultants and educators in hospitals, clinic, and other healthcare venues
- Nurses employed by home care organizations, visiting nurses agencies, and homemaker agencies, as well as private duty nursing agencies
- Specialist nurses employed by companies to deliver specialized products and services, such as pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and equipment, and drug infusion therapy
Indeed, home health nurses have one of the best career development options in the nursing profession.
How Much They Make
The salaries of home health nurses vary depending on several factors including a number of years experience, position in the hierarchy within the workplace, and geographical area (i.e., urban area employers usually pay higher salaries than rural area employers). In the United States, the median annual salary for home health nurses is $65,470 per year as of 2015.
How to Become a Home Health Nurse
Home health nurses must be registered nurses, career path that can be attained by completing one of these three programs:
- 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree;
- 2- to 3-year hospital diploma program; or
- 2-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
Registered nurses should then acquire a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, which includes specialized coursework in home health care and its focus areas. Ask nursing schools in your area since these institutions can offer a 2-year advanced practice nurse program followed by certification by the state board of nursing.
What Kind Of Nursing Organizations Are Associated With It?
Home health nurses are usually members of one or more of the following nursing organizations:
- The Home Healthcare Nurses Association
- The International Home Care Nurses Organization
- The Visiting Nurses Association of America
Home health nurses can also become:
- Faith community nurses
- Private duty nurses
- Geriatric nurses
- Pediatric nurses