Advancements in healthcare and medical technology have increased the lifespan of Americans. The United States Census Bureau projects that adults 65 and older will outnumber children by 2034. This older set will require more healthcare resources than current trends support, which is a significant part of the impetus to train more healthcare providers.
The AARP Public Policy Institute reports that nearly 90% of Americans over age 65 prefer to age in place, finishing out their lives in their current homes. This fact, along with the projected growth of the aging population, means plenty of career opportunities for home health nurses.
The Role of the Home Health Nurse
Home health nurses are trusted with the health and safety of the patients they treat. Many nurses drive to their patients' homes for treatment and some serve as live-in caregivers. Dr. Brenda Elliott notes in Nursing2020 that the home health nurse helps patients avoid a return to the hospital while aiding their convalescence.
The home health nurse employs the same critical thinking and evidence-based techniques in a home setting as they would in a clinical environment. Monitoring vitals, paying attention to recovery and patient complications are important parts of the job. Nurses follow physicians' orders for home treatment and keep meticulous records on each patient.
Nurse Journal clarifies that the individual patient's needs dictate the nurse's duties for that patient. For example, a younger patient on the mend after surgery will have different needs from the elderly patient on a number of medications for chronic illness and pain. Some patients may need assistance with bathing and feeding. Others may demand education on medical equipment necessary for their condition. The work is varied, yet all focused on supporting patient health and safety.
Treating patients in their homes brings a greater understanding of the individual challenges they face in finding health success. You may observe living conditions or functional issues that impede their progress. Family and friends of the patient can be advocates for your recommendations, helping your patients follow directives for healing. As a trusted caregiver, you may develop a bond with patients you treat over time.
Finding Success As a Home Health Nurse
Home healthcare nursing is not for everyone. It can be a bit like a calling for some. The rewards are great if you have the traits to set you up for success. It is important to consider your own needs and strengths, and how they might align with home healthcare nursing.
Working with a variety of patients in their own homes requires commuting. Nurses work with their patients' individual schedules, so flexibility is necessary. Of course, this allows for some flexibility in the nurse's personal life. A home healthcare nurse's parental duties, meals and other responsibilities can flow around patients' schedules. Home health nurses do tend to work during more regular business hours.
Unlike a clinical setting, home healthcare offers autonomy for nurses. It is normal for a nurse to visit patients solo, rarely being joined by another nurse. Home care nurse Laura Silverstein shares that a certain satisfaction comes from solving problems independently. Understanding patient challenges in the moment gives you opportunities to use your experience and judgment for the best resolution.
With autonomy comes responsibility. Time management skills are imperative so that all patients on your schedule receive the necessary care during their appointments with you. Attentive note-taking and communicating with pertinent parties about medical observations is mandatory. You must also be a good teacher as you'll be instructing patients on their role in recovery.
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is advantageous and often required for a position with a home healthcare agency. There is no required specific certification for nurses in this field, but all prior training and experience is beneficial. Two years of experience in medical-surgical or critical care reinforce a broad range of skills that are useful in the home healthcare field.
The average salary for a registered nurse in 2019 was $73,300 per the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition to the financial rewards, there are work-life balance benefits as well because there may be less demand to work overtime, weekends and holidays than other nursing jobs.
If you enjoy your independence and connecting with the patients you treat, consider becoming a home healthcare nurse. The demand is only growing, making this career path full of potential.
Learn more about Eastern Illinois University's online RN to BSN program.
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