Home nursing is one of the most often overlooked nursing career options currently on the market. The majority of nurses currently enjoy careers in hospitals or traditional medical facilities, but an increase in home health care opportunities for patients means that home nursing is expected to grow, as well.
It combines the flexibility that typically comes with self-directed employment with the job security of the health care industry, making it ideal for those looking to work outside the standard hospital setting.
Home Nursing Care
Home health services provide nursing care to individuals who need regular medical services, but who do not need hospitalization or nursing home support. In many cases, it is used for patients who suffer from acute illnesses, disability, or terminal illnesses (including hospice care).
It is a growing field in the nursing career industry, as the number of home health patients is expected to rise to combat rising health care costs and the aging baby boomer population.
In its most simple form, the home nursing health care field is much like a doctor paying house calls on patients. The nurses typically use their own their own transportation to visit patients in their own homes and apartments. Depending on the patient’s illness and situation, the nurses may either work full eight-hours shifts at the patient’s home, or they may drop in to provide care to a large case of clients within a single day. During their visits, home nurses provide routine care, check vital signs (like blood pressure or heartbeats), bathe the patients, and oftentimes help with other daily chores.
The Home Nurse Career
As far as nurse jobs go, home nursing is one of the most often overlooked choices. It tends to pay less than hospital nursing careers, and the environment changes all the time, so it can be difficult for professionals looking for more stability. However, there are benefits to home nursing, as well. Because home nurses are only expected to look after one patient at a time, the pace is less hurried and less physically demanding. Home nurses also operate independently, and enjoy more decision-making responsibilities and freedom from supervision than other types of nurses.
There’s also the emotional side to being a home nurse that is often overlooked. Nurses in this field enter a patient’s home for up to eight hours each day. They often become close to entire families or to the patient, especially in the case of hospice care. This requires greater skills in patient rapport, cultural acceptance, and case documentation. It also offers the opportunity for greater job satisfaction – assuming this type of nursing career is the right fit.
Home Nursing School and Education
Because home nurses have so much responsibility in terms of their workload, the nurse education requirements tend to be higher, as well. For example, nurses who will be controlling medication intake (as is often the case in hospice care patients) may be required to have completed a graduate-level nursing program with intensive pharmacology training.
Nurse-midwifery, which is another common reason for home nursing, also requires an advanced degree and certification in the prenatal and postnatal care. Other specializations, including working with children with disabilities and new mothers, may require either an advanced degree or continued education in that specific field.
For nurses who will be taking on the typical responsibilities of a home nurse, standard nursing school requirements are usually sufficient. A two- or four-year RN degree either at the Associate or Bachelor’s level in conjunction with one year of clinical experience is usually enough to start working as home nurse, although some of the higher-end home nursing centers may require advanced degrees.
What to Expect from a Home Nursing Career
The pay for home nurses is fairly average in terms of standard nursing pay. The average home nurse salary came in at $49,000 per year in 2005, which is roughly $3,500 less than the national average for all types of nursing. This pay may increase among professional nurses certified in geriatric care, nurse-midwifery, or nurse-anesthetist training.
Home nursing jobs are available in home health agencies, hospice organizations, public health departments, and some types of private medical practices. Government and insurance organizations affiliated with Medicare and Medicaid might have additional nursing career options based on educating patients and their families about their home health care choices.
Moving Forward with a Home Nursing Career
For current nursing professionals or nursing students interested in learning more about the field of home health care, RNBuilder.com is a great place to start. Check out our Nurse Resources page as well as find a top nursing school near you.
Another good source is the Home Healthcare Nurses Association (HHNA). This national professional nursing organization brings together nurses, educators, administrators, and researchers to provide the best in-home care possible.