What Does a Home Health Care Nurse Do?
Home health care nurses are specially trained to provide nursing care for patients from their homes. Most home health care nurses work with the elderly, but some work with younger populations with developmental disabilities and/or limited mobility. Home health care nurses may work on a long-term basis in end-of-life care; they may also work on a temporary basis, helping to rehabilitate patients so they can regain their physical independence after a serious or complex injury. Due to the nature of their work, home health care nurses may work with only one patient day after day for months and years at a time, while a staff nurse working in a hospital or clinic will see different patients every day. The responsibilities of a home health care nurse might include: initiating a plan of care for a homebound patient, managing a patient’s medication or pain management schedule, educating patients on their medical condition and speaking with family members on how to care for elderly or disabled patients.
How Can I Become a Home Health Care Nurse?
The first step toward becoming a home health care nurse is to complete an approved nursing education program. The most common way of doing this is to earn a degree in nursing. Most people earn either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university. Less common is earning a nursing diploma, a program typically offered through hospitals. After completing a nursing program, all future nurses go on to take an exam called the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) so they can become licensed to practice nursing in their state. Many home health care nurses gain experience as a staff nurse before seeking employment with a home health care agency. After gaining experience treating patients in home health care, a nurse can proceed to become credentialed as a board certified home health care nurse through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Home Health Care Nurse?
The career outlook for nurses overall is excellent, but those who specialize in home health care nursing are even more in demand. Employment of registered nurses overall is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, employment of RNs in the home health care services industry are projected to grow by a whopping 33 percent between 2008 and 2009, the Bureau projects. The average annual salary for nurses working in the home health care services industry was $58,740 in May 2008, according to the Bureau. However, a number of factors can affect your salary as a home health nurse, including how many years of experience you have, what certifications you have, what region of the U.S. you live in, and whether you are working in a metropolitan or rural area. Advanced practice nurses (who are trained at the master’s level) also earn significantly higher salaries on average.