As the U.S. population continues to get older, home healthcare will play a larger role in the delivery of healthcare, which is good news for nurses and healthcare professionals who might be looking for a new work environment.
Here is a look at what home healthcare is, why it’s growing, the opportunities available and what skills might be best for someone to be successful in this field.
What is home healthcare?
Home healthcare is when a patient gets professional care within their own home instead of a typical healthcare setting. There are a variety of healthcare services that can be provided in a home, including:
- Temporary rehabilitation for someone recovering from surgery
- Ongoing treatment because of a disability
- Consistent care for someone who is chronically or terminally ill
Many organizations provide homecare, including businesses that specialize in home healthcare, hospice care agencies and staffing companies. The care could be provided multiple times a week, daily, several times each day or for an entire shift.
Registered nurses are often involved in-home care, as well as therapeutic professionals and home healthcare aides.
Why is home healthcare expected to increase?
There are several factors that contribute to the growing demand for home healthcare professionals. The majority of people who need home care are retired, and that population is consistently growing. Several thousand baby boomers reach retirement age every day in the United States. Turning 65 also triggers Medicare eligibility, which could cover home healthcare services.
Since home healthcare is more convenient and often less expensive than outpatient or inpatient care, it’s likely more people will get their care without leaving their house.
What services are provided in home healthcare?
Home health professionals provide care to a patient because of an injury or illness. If possible, the treatment will build patients’ self-sufficiency and help them get better.
Services provided by medical professionals could include physical or occupational therapy, wound care, injections and/or nutrition therapy. A home healthcare professional could also check a patient’s vital signs – such as blood pressure and heart rate – to make sure they’re taking their medicine and provide information about how they can take care of themselves.
Why is a career in home healthcare attractive?
There are many reasons why you might want to choose a career in-home healthcare, including:
- Flexibility: Instead of working in one building for a designated period of time every day, you will likely travel between multiple homes per day. You can also set your schedule and possibly adjust the times you visit patients if you need to work different hours on a particular day. You’ll likely need to make sure you have your own transportation, though.
- Independence: Although you are still accountable to the healthcare organization you work for and, of course, your patients, you can enjoy working somewhat independently as you travel from home to home.
- Relationship-building: Healthcare workers often don’t get to build a long-term relationship with patients, but with home healthcare, you can visit the same patient regularly and get to know them. That consistent one-on-one care opportunity appeals to many professionals.
What can you do to get a home healthcare position?
Home healthcare professionals range from healthcare aides to physical therapists, occupational therapists and nurses. There is a very different pathway for each career. Medical assistants can work as medical aides under the direction of the medical doctor or a nurse practitioner. In nursing, you may decide to become a home health nurse. To become a home health nurse you’ll need to:
- Get your nursing degree: While you might find a job as an RN with an associate degree in nursing (ASN), you might be required to have a bachelor’s (BSN).
- Earn certification: To become an RN, you need to pass the National Council Licensure Exam either for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) or for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
- Get experience: It might be easiest for you to get a job in the home healthcare field if you have experience at a previous entity.
- Connect with an agency: Many companies hire nurses for home healthcare positions. Nurses can also search for placements through websites such as Nurse Registry.