While many nurses choose to work in hospitals, it is just one of the many places they can pursue their careers. They could also choose to work from home, or rather, their patients’ homes. A home health nurse is a certified nurse who provides one-on-one care to patients. They usually have a facility in which they receive their assignment and drive to the patient’s home to administer care.
Home health nurses have many of the same responsibilities as a nurse working in a regular medical facility. They can administer medication to patients, assist with daily activities, measure vital signs and monitor changes to their patients. Most home health nurses take care of elderly patients with long- term illnesses, but they can also help individuals who are recovering from an accident or surgery.
If you are someone who likes to be on the move and would like to work in a more non-traditional clinical setting, home healthcare nursing could be for you! Here are three steps to take if you’re interested in becoming a home healthcare nurse:
- Earn a degree
- Get licensed
- Gain experience
- Find an agency
1. Get your nursing degree
Before you decide to become a home health nurse, you will need to get your nursing degree. While employers can accept a diploma in practical nursing or associate degree in nursing (ASN) for entry-level positions, some will require you to have your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Herzing offers all three educational levels; you can complete your BSN degree in three years or less. However, if you earn your diploma or ASN, you can always choose to go back to school and complete your BSN later.
While your degree might not influence your ability to work as a home health nurse, your nursing responsibilities will vary according to your degree level. With your ASN or BSN as a registered nurse (RN), you will be able to have greater autonomy as a nurse and provide a wider range of care for your patients. With your diploma, you can become a licensed practical nurse (LPN). LPNs are skilled in task-based nursing care, which comprises a large portion of home healthcare.
Home health nurses also have the option to specialize in certain fields, including:
- Mental health
- Community/public health
Before you determine which degree you want to pursue, you should explore the educational and specialty requirements for where you would like to apply.
2. Become licensed
After getting your degree, you’ll have to take the National Council Licensure Exam either for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) or Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). You will need to pass the NCLEX in order to become licensed to work as a nurse.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) used to offer a Home Health Clinical Nurse Specialist Certification (HHCNS-BC) but the exam since has been phased out. If you are already a home health nurse with this certification, it is available for renewal and is good for five years.
All other requirements vary from state to state and are dependent upon your specialty, so be sure to research your state’s home healthcare licensing requirements.
3. Gain experience
Some employers will also require you to have work experience before they will hire you to work as a home health nurse. If you have prior work experience in a hospital, nursing home, or clinic, it can help you stand out as a candidate for a home health nurse. While not always required, working as a nurse elsewhere before becoming a home health nurse can help you gain valuable insight and skills that you can later use in your career.
4. Find an agency
Most home health nurses will work through an agency to find a placement, while others will work through sites like Nurse Registry to find a placement. These agencies will ensure that you are being compensated for your work, that you are satisfied with your placement and that you’re following the legal requirements for being a home health nurse.
Most of these agencies will fill out licensing requirements for the state in order to operate. Some states also have home healthcare agencies file certificates of need before they can open. This is to help state authorities regulate the healthcare market and ensure that nursing professionals can find placement through their agency.
If you decide to work through an agency, it also adds another layer of credibility to your nursing career since you have met the agency’s as well as the state’s requirements to be a home nurse.
Is home health nursing a good career?
Home health aides and personal nurses are expected to see a 34% employment increase according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is only anticipated to rise in the coming years, with Home Healthcare News reporting that there will be about 1 million home healthcare jobs created by 2028, mainly because of the growth in the aging baby-boomer population. This seems to be a trend throughout the industry as RNs are expected to see a 7% increase between 2019-2029 according to the BLS.*
Some benefits of working as a home health nurse include:
- Flexibility and variety: As a home health nurse, you may have more flexibility than a nurse working in a hospital. Some agencies also allow you to pick your hours. You’re not just assisting in patient care, you might also train new employees or help with home health aide classes.
- Independence: If you’re a person who likes to work independently then you would enjoy being a home health nurse. Although you’re interacting with your patients, you are responsible for your own time and your patients.
- Personal relationships: Working as a home health nurse, you get to work with some of the same patients regularly, which means you can get to know them on a more personal level. You also have the opportunity to see them progress and serve as their support system through every aspect of their recovery or illness.
Interesting in starting your career as a home health nurse? Explore Herzing University’s nursing programs to find the right pathway for you.