By 2030, senior citizens will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history and, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 5 U.S. citizens will be age 65 and older. This is mainly because of the aging baby boomer population and advancements in medicine that have increased life expectancy.
As a result of the growing number of seniors and an overall nursing shortage, there is a booming demand for home health nurses. According to Nurse Journal (via the Bureau of Labor Statistics), there is an anticipated 7% growth for home health nurses who are registered nurses.
If you’re on a nursing path but aren’t quite sure where you’d like to work, home health care nursing could be for you! Here is a look at the responsibilities of a home health nurse, how to become one and skills you’ll need to be successful:
What does a home health nurse do?
A home health nurse is a certified nurse who provides one-on-one care to patients. However, you would work out of a patient’s home instead of a medical facility. A typical day could begin by receiving your assignments in a facility and driving to patients’ homes to administer care.
Although the work environment may vary, the day-to-day tasks of a home health nurse are not dramatically different from a nurse working in a medical facility. You can expect to perform many of the same responsibilities, such as administering medication, measuring vital signs and monitoring changes to patients.
How do you become a home health nurse?
Becoming a home health nurse requires both education and licensure. Here are four steps to guide you on your path to becoming a home health care nurse:
- Earn a degree: To become a home health nurse, you’ll need a degree in nursing. A diploma in practical nursing or an associate degree in nursing (ASN) will suffice for entry-level positions. But, some employers require you to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). If you are already a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), you can transition into a career as a home health nurse by completing a degree to become an RN.
- Get licensed: Once you receive your nursing degree, you’ll need to take the National Council Licensure Exam for either Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) or Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Before the exam, you’ll need an Authorization to Test (ATT) which you can receive by applying to your nursing regulatory body (NRB) and registering on Pearson VUE.
- Gain experience: Any prior nursing experience will help you stand out from the competition when applying to home health nurse positions.
Do home health nurses collaborate with others?
Depending on the needs of the patient, home health nurses might need to collaborate with their clinicians. This ensures everyone is working as a team to best care for the patient. Collaboration can also prevent errors that could negatively affect the patient’s health.
What skills are required?
Aside from clinical nursing skills you learn from both work experience and education, there are a few other skills that outstanding home health nurses have:
- Patience: You’ll likely work with a wide variety of patients, all at different levels in their cognitive and physical abilities. The simple act of being patient can go a long way.
- Critical Thinking: Problem-solving skills help you make decisions quickly on the job.
- Proactive: From sensing the needs of patients to removing hazards from the home, being proactive prevents possible issues.
- Observant: Not every patient can or will communicate when they need assistance, so look for less obvious signs on how/when to provide care.
What are some of the most common challenges?
As a home health nurse, you have the important task of providing exceptional care to patients. However, there are a few challenges you should be prepared for, such as:
- Work Environment: Every home is different, and some might be a bit more difficult to work in than others.
- Lack of Support: Home health nurses mostly work alone, which means other nurses' support system in medical facilities isn’t immediately available.
- Difficult Patients: Some patients might not welcome in-home care as much as others.
Despite challenges, working as a home healthcare nurse is a rewarding position in which you can make a huge difference in someone’s life, helping them live independently while receiving excellent health care.