Home health nurses coordinate and deliver care to a broad range of patients in the home environment. Patients are often concerned about how they will manage once they leave the safety of the hospital. It is the job of the home health nurse to organize, support, and provide care to assure them that life outside is safe and achievable.
Home health nurses deliver care to both adults and children. A patient could be recovering from surgery, an injury, a stroke, cancer, or other chronic illness. Some patients are pregnant mothers unable to eat and need IV nutritional support. Others are children who are ventilator dependent and need family teaching to learn how to manage their care at home.
Home health nurses can fill a variety of opportunities, giving them more flexibility and autonomy. They can choose to work with one patient for the entire day or visit multiple patients. Home health nurses can deliver care to a single patient population such as gerontology, pediatrics, medical, surgical, or home IV patients. There are plenty of part-time or full-time positions, making home care nursing attractive in balancing with one’s lifestyle.
Home health nurses spend much time teaching patients and families what to expect and how to manage their illness during their daily lives. Therefore, these nurses must be skilled, empathetic communicators to gently introduce the changes people must make and allow time for patients to learn.
Home health nurses often receive advanced training to improve their skills. Some become advanced practice nurses (APNs) who specialize in an area relevant to home care, clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), or as nursing administrators.
Home health nurses perform some of the same activities as hospital nurses, but they provide them in a person’s residence. Home health nurses coordinate and manage the plan of care since physicians will not see patients as frequently as they would in the hospital.
General activities may include:
- Taking patient histories
- Recording vital signs and blood sugars
- Administering medications or teaching patients how to self-administer
- Providing wound care, IV therapy, and ordering of supplies
- Doing physical exams and monitoring for skin breakdown
- Monitoring lab results and response to therapy
- Alerting the physician to any significant changes that need attention
Home health nurses offer recommendations to the physician since they see the patient more often. For example, they recommend and arrange for ancillary health visits such as physical or respiratory therapy, home x-rays, and LVN or CNA visits.
Home health nurses must have sharp assessment skills to anticipate patient risks and monitor changes between visits. They need strong leadership skills to delegate to LVNs and CNAs how to carry out their care.
Home health nurses function as the physician's eyes and ears, so they are responsible for communicating the patient’s status.
In addition, home health nurses need strong communication and teaching skills to instruct families and patients on delivering medications and treatments at home and how to reduce complications.