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Home Health Nurse

Home health nurses provide care to patients in their homes who need on-going support with their medical conditions. Home health nurses may provide wound care, administer medications, manage catheters, draw lab work, educate family members, and decide when to call the physician or send a patient to the hospital. Patients may be elderly or young and have straight forward needs or complicated ones. Home Health nurses must maintain meticulous notes to get reimbursement from Medicare/Medicaid or insurance.

Education Requirements

All registered nurse specialty areas require an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and successfully pass the state’s NCLEX-RN exam. However, home care has an increasing demand for staff, so ADNs, LVNs, and CNAs can fill many positions, and BSN degreed nurses may branch into more managerial roles.

How to advance/career pathway

Home health nurses may further their career by getting an MSN with a focus on Nursing Administration or as a Clinical Nurse Specialist or a combined MSN/MHA (master’s in health administration).


You can also advance by becoming a Nurse Practitioner as either an:  

  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-PCNP)
  • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (PPCNP)

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Patient assessments: vital signs, physical exams, and home safety
  • Wound care: dressing changes and preventive skin care to prevent breakdown
  • Medication administration: IV, IM, oral, nebulizer 
  • Ensure all equipment operates safely to prevent falls
  • Supervise and coordinate other home care staff: CNAs, Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy
  • Patient and family education

MOST COMMON CASES

  • Dementia/Alzheimer’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Spinal cord injury (SCI)
  • Diabetes
  • COPD or other respiratory complications
  • Chronic conditions
  • Neurological conditions: Multiple sclerosis (MS), Muscular dystrophy (MD)
  • Joint replacement

How to become a

Home Health Nurse

  1. Complete an ADN or BSN program in nursing
  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for your RN license
  3. Work one to two years in the hospital or in a skilled nursing facility
  4. Apply to your county Visiting Nurse Service (VNS) or contact other local home health nursing agencies. Look for agencies with good reputations both in patient care and staff satisfaction.

Specialty Groups and Communities

National Association for Home Care & Hospice

  • Mission: “The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) is the largest and most respected professional association representing the interests of chronically ill, disabled, and dying Americans of all ages and the caregivers who provide them with in-home health and hospice services.”
  • Cost: $100, annually, per each member.
  • Perks: Expert legal and regulatory guidance from NAHC staff, Subscription to NAHC Report, Networking opportunities with industry experts, and more.

Visiting Nurse Association of America 

  • Mission: “VNAA is the catalyst to ensure the advancement of home-based care as the preferred solution to high-value, high-quality care.”
  • Cost: $250, annually.
  • Perks: Membership bestows various benefits including access to VNAA’s partnership with a range of vendors that offer exclusive pricing and benefits to their members. More here.

Association of Public Health Nurses 

  • Mission: “To shape the role of public health nursing within the specialty of population health and to educate and advocate for policies and practices that advance the practice of public health nursing to promote the public’s health.”
  • Cost: $250-385, annually, depending on membership status.
  • Perks: Educational offerings, leadership development opportunities, chances to receive and provide mentorship in public health nursing practice and leadership, networking conference calls and meetings, and more.

Association of Public Health Nurses 

  • Mission: “To shape the role of public health nursing within the specialty of population health and to educate and advocate for policies and practices that advance the practice of public health nursing to promote the public’s health.”
  • Cost: $250-385, annually, depending on membership status.
  • Perks: Educational offerings, leadership development opportunities, chances to receive and provide mentorship in public health nursing practice and leadership, networking conference calls and meetings, and more.

The Pros

  • Develop close relationships with home care patients and their families
  • Able to focus on one patient at a time
  • Less physically demanding than hospital care
  • Make independent but collaborative decisions with the primary care doctor

The Cons

  • Can feel isolated from other nurses or newer medical trends
  • Patient or family may see visits as an intrusion
  • Possible stress due to need to perform interventions independently
  • Safety issues if visits are in low-income areas
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Personality Traits

  • Confident nursing skills
  • Strong patient advocate
  • Independent 
  • Enjoys teaching patients and families
  • Patient and flexible
  • Excellent communicator 
  • Empathetic
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Average Salary

Home health nurses typically make between $39k - $82k, with a median salary of $64,184. For the most up-to-date salary information, check out Salary Explorer.

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Certifications

There is no requirement that home health nurses obtain certifications though it may help with advancement. The Home Health Nursing Certification (RN-BC) was phased out so cannot be pursued. 

An alternative option is: Wound, Ostomy and Continence Care Certification

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Work Setting

Patient homes primarily but also assisted living facilities

Interested in learning more about what it’s like to be a Home Health Nurse? We spoke to one to find out. Read What Does a Home Health Nurse Do?