Working as a home health nurse (HHN) can be very rewarding. It is available to both registered nurses (RNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). Nurse assistants can also train to be a home health nurse. For a patient who is unable to care for themselves in their home, or for a patient whose family is not able to care for them properly, a nurse can come to the home and make all the difference.
You can make a difference, too, and touch countless lives when you choose this particular career path. There are a lot of different skills necessary for this type of nurse, all of which can be learned and used to help people feel better and stay healthier longer. Here’s what you need to know about this career path.
A home health nurse comes to a patient’s home instead of caring for them in a doctor’s office, hospital, or other kind of medical facility. These nurses handle all the types of duties that a nurse would address in a hospital or other setting according to the needs of the patient. They bring what they need with them, or use medical equipment that has been delivered to the patient’s house, in order to make sure their patients get the quality treatment they need. There are many reasons a patient might be bed-bound or house-bound, requiring the services of a home health nurse to properly care for them.
Registered nurses (RNs) and Licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) can become home health nurses, as both of these groups have the needed education and training. Patients who use home health often do so for terminal conditions, but that is not the case for every patient who reaches out to a home health nurse for assistance.
When a patient works with a home health nurse, they can expect to get the same nursing care they would get if they were in a medical facility. Home health nurses need to have all the necessary, required skills to be a nurse, along with the ability to be flexible about working under more unique conditions as they will not have the help, support, and level of equipment they may have in a more professional setting. Still, they have to be able to adequately care for the patient, and to notify the doctor or others if there are problems that should be addressed.
Home health nurses are vitally important when it comes to giving proper medical care to people who cannot leave their homes. This could be due to a terminal illness, a chronic condition or even a temporary issue that keeps the patient from coming to a doctor’s office or medical facility for treatment. If these nurses were not available, patients who could not leave their homes would not be able to get the proper treatment they need to heal and live comfortably.
A home health nurse needs to be a kind, compassionate, and caring professional who can be understanding about the issues faced by their patients. Additionally, they will also need to be confident and willing to go into the homes of people they do not know to care for them, sometimes in less than ideal conditions. Pets, children, relatives, home decor, clutter, and all sorts of combinations of issues can potentially get in the way of the nurse’s duties. Judgment and strong opinions that are not related to the patient’s care will need to be left outside.
All home health nurses need specific, basic levels of education. A registered nurse who wants to work in home health will need to complete either an accredited associate or bachelor’s degree program. Upon graduation, they will take the NCLEX exam so they can receive licensure in their state. Licensed vocational nurses have essentially the same requirements in that they need to graduate from an accredited program and take a licensing exam. Because an LVN is trained to perform nursing care that is specific and skill-based, they are often good choices for home health nursing.
A certified nurse assistant (CNA) can also obtain certification to work in home health, but they will be limited in what they can do. They are not nurses and do not have the same types of training and education. With that in mind, though, CNAs who want to work in home health can, in some cases, supplement visits from registered nurses to home-bound patients. This allows them to provide quality care and frees up some of the nurses time to see and care for more patients. Training for a home health position does not have specific licensing or guideline requirements for those who are already a registered nurse or LVN.
The career outlook for a home health nurse is fantastic. Registered nurses and LVNs are free to move in and out of working in home health, since going to patients’ homes and caring for them does not have a specific educational requirement or certification. In short, any RN or LVN can work in home health. The nursing education and license they have is already enough for them to qualify for the job. Because of that, nurses who choose to work in home health can go back to working in a facility if they feel it is a better choice for them, and nurses who work in facilities can decide to care for patients in their homes if that’s what they wish to do.
A registered nurse who works in home health can expect to see a median annual income of $76,000 as of 2019, while an LVN can expect around $48,000. A CNA who works in patients’ homes will see an annual salary of $26,000. This will vary depending on where in the country the job is located and the experience of the nurse applying for that job. Nurses who want to generate more income and have more available job opportunities can work toward a master’s degree and pursue advanced practice nursing. In rare cases, an HHN position will require one to two years of acute care experience first.
Because home health care is a specialty in and of itself, there are no specific specialties contained within it. But a home health nurse who is an RN will have a number of different duties to engage in. These include taking vitals, administering medication, drawing labs, performing assessments, and working with the physician on a plan of care. An LVN may also care for wounds, assist with mobility issues, and more. CNAs will not be allowed to administer medications but can make assessments and help with patient mobility.
Most people who are thinking about a career in home health nursing have questions. They want to know if they are qualified for the job and if it is a good career choice for them. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions from people interested in home health nursing.
1. What kind of home care is offered by a home health nurse? There are many services a home health nurse can provide, including taking vitals, administering medication, drawing labs, performing assessments, and working with the physician on a plan of care.
2. How quickly can a nurse advance their career with home health? Advancing a nursing career can be done by obtaining more experience as a nurse as well as pursuing additional education. Often certain nursing jobs wish for 1-2 years of experience in a subspecialty before that nurse is considered for the position, and it usually takes about 2 years to earn a master’s degree in nursing (assuming you already have a BSN).
3. Does a disability disqualify someone from being a nurse? It depends on the disability. Nurses must be able to communicate effectively, work under stressful conditions, and physically be able to be on their feet for the duration of their shift. A disability that impairs one’s ability to perform these tasks could disqualify them from nursing opportunities.
4. Is it hard to find the best nursing program for me? Finding the right nursing program is not as difficult as many people think. Take a look at your resources, your location, and your learning preferences and tailor your search to your conditions. It’s your career, after all!
There are a number of helpful organizations for the home health nurse to consider. These organizations can give nurses guidance, training information, and insight into their career choice. A few good options include:
We know adequate school and training can be pricey at times. Apply today for our scholarship that’s open to all potential nurses.
If you want to become a home health nurse, get started on your nursing degree as soon as possible. But don’t worry! We’ve done a lot of the work for you. Take a look at our list of the best BSN degree programs.
Ready to get started on a career as a home health nurse? We can help you do that. Give us a call or reach out to us online today, and let us give you the information you need. Before you know it you will be starting on your career as a home health nurse, and giving patients the help and support they need to improve the quality of their lives. Come be a part of that, by reaching out to us today.