If you have compassion and the capability to provide nursing care, you might wonder how to become a home health nurse. Home health nurses visit patients’ homes to provide care rather than working in medical facilities. The care that a home health nurse provides allows patients to return to the comfort of their own home rather than being forced to remain in a potentially stressful environment, like a hospital.
Not every ailment requires the help of a home health nurse. Patients who need nursing care at their home are typically elderly, though the disabled and those patients with chronic illnesses may also use these services. Because these health conditions may be long-term, home health nurses often work closely with patients for a longer amount of time than they might in a doctor’s office or a hospital. Home health nurses often work independently, because they typically do not have a full staff of doctors and other nurses at their disposal at all times. Most home health nurses travel between homes to provide care to several patients over the course of a day.
The responsibilities of a home health nurse are similar to those of other nursing specialties. Many patients are on multiple medications, so home health nurses must manage these medications to ensure that patients take the correct amount of the right medicine at the appropriate time. Home health nurses will also monitor patient’s vital signs and statistics. They may change wound dressings or perform other treatment procedures. Home health nurses may also bathe and heat up meals for patients to ensure that their needs are being met. As compassionate caretakers, home health nurses may offer emotional support to both patients and family members during the challenging time of an illness or injury.
As with other specialties of nursing, home health nurses need a formal education to launch their careers. Home health nurses are typically registered nurses (RN) but may hold a higher certification. To become a nurse, candidates must earn either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. An associate’s degree will qualify candidates for some entry-level nursing positions, but a bachelor’s degree will improve career opportunities and allow for advancement later on. Coursework for aspiring home health nurses may include nursing, chemistry, psychology, anatomy, physiology, nutrition, microbiology, geriatrics and nursing technology. Upon completion of a degree program, nurses must also take the required exams to become registered nurses. Aspiring home health nurses will often gain experience working as a nurse in a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office before seeking a position as a home health nurse.
Nurses employed in home health care services earn a median annual salary of $60,690 and registered nurses in all fields enjoy an anticipated 26 percent growth in job opportunities by the year 2020. If you have a passion for helping the sick and injured, knowing how to become a home health nurse might be the start to a fulfilling new career in nursing.