Want to work outside the hospital walls? Try Home Health Nursing. Home Health nursing can be a satisfying niche for nurses who are independent, have some nursing experience, and would like to care for patients outside of the hospital walls. Like all new jobs and specialties, there is a transition period to overcome. In this article we will discuss what home health nurses do, what makes this specialty non-traditional, the challenges these nurses face, how the author transitioned from hospital to home care, and how to thrive in this specialty.
Visiting nurses, or home health nurses, are one of the oldest specialties dating back to the 1800’s. The Visiting Nurse Association of NY was one of the first associations to recognize visiting nurses and their impact on public health (AM J Public Health 2010, July 100(7) 1206-1207; Fee, E. & Bu, L. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.186049).
Home health nursing comprises of providing nursing care in the individual’s home. This requires a new layer of resourcefulness as the conveniences and equipment found in the hospital are generally not available. Nurses carry their own supplies, use a cell phone, and document the visit on a computer or tablet.
Home health nurses regularly utilize the nursing process and must have superior assessment skills. Here are some examples of the home health nurse’s responsibilities: assisting with medications, insert or remove a foley catheter, perform and teach drain care or wound care, or draw blood work. Additionally, home care nurses are still prioritizing the sickest patients and plan out the number of visits per week.
These nurses not only provide direct patient care but also serve as case managers. Being a case manager in the home health realm means caring for the patient from beginning of service to discharge; or when the patient is released from care. Case managers coordinate with doctors, family members, and other members of the healthcare team such as social workers, occupational and physical therapists, and home health aides.
This specialty is non-traditional because the nurse is not tethered to the hospital. The nurse is very independent and works autonomously. She or he is in charge of his or her schedule for the day and creates a driving route. And there are chances for bathroom breaks! It’s worth noting this specialty is generally not as physically demanding as a bedside nurse.
Nurses in this specialty still face challenges. The nurse must respond to emergencies safely and have excellent time management skills. The nurse must also be mindful of unsafe home situations and self-awareness. Another challenge is the requirement of driving in inclement weather and getting lost. With some experience, a GPS and a map these challenges can be tackled.
This author worked in a suburban hospital for a decade. Eventually the author grew bored and wanted to work more autonomously. She applied to her hospital’s visiting nurse department. It took about a year to develop a routine and transition into this niche. The most challenging tasks this author overcame were planning driving routes factoring in travel time and being a case manager.
In order to thrive in this specialty the nurse must enjoy working independently. Home health nursing can be very rewarding and a nice break from rigid shifts that hospitals require. The nurse is in control of his or her schedule and provides one-on-one patient care. All nurses impact lives and home health nurses touch lives in the comfort of the patient’s home.
Susan K. Sinclair, MSN, RN-BC
The Origins of Public Health Nursing: The Henry Street Visiting Nurse Service. AM J Public Health 2010, July 100(7) 1206-120; Fee, E. & Bu, L. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.186049).
Susan Sinclair is an experienced nurse certified in the medical-surgical specialty. She has various work experience in cardiac, IV therapy, teaching, and research. Susan has current experience in home health nursing. She enjoys writing about current nursing topics and elevating the profession. Please contact Susan via LinkedIn.