What Is A Home Healthcare Nurse?
A home healthcare nurse is a nurse who, instead of working in a hospital, works in patients homes. The main patient demographics that a home healthcare nurse works with are:
- The elderly who need assistance in getting around and completing basic day-to-day tasks
- Young children with mobility issues or who are very sick
A home healthcare nurse performs most of the same duties as one who works in a hospital setting, just in a patient’s home.
Nature Of The Work/Duties
The job rule of this type of nurse requires providing basic care to patients who cannot leave their homes. The following are the main tasks that a home healthcare nurse will perform on a regular basis:
- Work with patients on a long term basis: This gives you the opportunity to build up a relationship with each of your patients and allows you to become fully informed regarding the patient’s needs and physical condition.
- Help patients regain physical independence: In some cases this is not possible, such in situations where you are nursing an elderly individual. However home healthcare can be rehabilitative and therefore extremely rewarding.
- Manage patients’ medication: The elderly and children cannot always be relied on to take the correct medications in the correct quantities at the correct times, and, consequently, a home healthcare nurse needs to oversee medication administration.
As a home healthcare nurse your employment opportunities may be slightly limited. This is because with a qualification such as this you can only really work in one of two settings: patient’s homes and nursing homes. Nursing homes are facilities in which patients who cannot care for themselves for medical reasons are taken to live. In this case the home healthcare nurses in question provide the same care as they would in the patient’s actual home, as it is, after all, the place where the patient lives. However as you will also have general training as an RN, and because you will be doing many of the same tasks as a nurse in a hospital or similar healthcare setting, you should be able to seek employment in a number of different settings other than in home healthcare nursing.
Home Healthcare Nurse Requirements
- You must get a Nursing Diploma, an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): most programs like these require you to hold a high school diploma before you will be allowed to enter them.
- You must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become an RN.
- You can then start working as a Home Health Care Registered Nurse – no additional training is needed to be a nurse in this line of work.
- You must pass your Home Health Care Nurse certification exam through the American Nurses Credentialing Center and then you can become a Certified Home Health Care Nurse.
This is a line of work that requires you to have a large degree of patience, primarily because the patients you will be working may be elderly or children who do not do things at a speed that you would like them to. This is possibly the most important personality trait for being a home healthcare nurse. Your communication skills also need to be excellent, as in all other areas of nursing, because you will be required to interact with patients, their families, and other health care professionals on a daily basis. An ability to get your message across clearly will therefore be invaluable. Last but not least you need to be able to work well under stress. Nursing jobs in general carry with them a high degree of stress and an ability to handle this stress without affecting your performance and the level of care you provide is therefore essential.
The most basic educational requirement is to have a high school diploma or equivalent. To be a home healthcare nurse you need to meet the following educational requirements:
- You must have a degree in nursing – this is one of the few specializations in nursing that only requires an associate or bachelor’s degree and nothing else.
- After receiving this degree you will have to complete an exam known as the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed as a registered nurse.
- The areas that you will be tested on in this exam include client needs, health promotion, psychosocial integrity and physiological integrity.
- Specialized training in geriatrics, treatment of disabled patients and cutting edge technologies for home health care can also be useful in this field although it is not a requirement.
In order to become a home healthcare nurse you need to achieve licensure as an RN. Some LPNs are also able to work in home healthcare, although they are usually supervised. An LPN license may help, but an RN license is a better option. To get an RN license you must:
- Complete an RN training program through an accredited school
- On completion of the program you can apply to your state board of nursing for licensure as an RN
- When your state board of nursing confirms that you are eligible to be licensed, set a date with Pearson VUE to take the NCLEX-RN examination for a fee of $200
- Passing the exam will allow you to become licensed
How To Become A Home Healthcare Nurse
Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications
Because there is no additional training required other than receiving your RN qualification, you do not, technically speaking, need to become involved in any advanced training programs for this particular nursing specialty. You can however focus your continuing education credits on topics that will helpful to you in this field. Continuing education credits are necessary courses that must be completed by all nurses in order to maintain their nursing licensure. Sometimes your state will specify the content of the courses that you must take, but often you are free to choose. Consequently a focus in gerontology nursing may, for example, be a good continuing education credit to take. If you take continuing education courses that are in line with the line of nursing you have chosen, you will also increase your chances for finding employment.
Source An Accredited Education Program
It is essential that the program you complete your nursing training through is accredited. You can find accredited programs in your area by:
- Visit the website of your state board of nursing. Here there should be a list of programs in your state that are accredited. You can also make specific enquiries into the accreditation status of any schools that you already have an interest in.
- Speak with nurses who are already working as RNs or in home healthcare as they will be able to tell you about the accredited programs that they attended to get where they are today.
- You should also be able to enquire directly at the school you are interested in about its accreditation status, but this should always be double checked by enquiring at the state board of nursing.
Earn Your Associate’s Degree
5this is one of the few nursing specialties in which earning an associate’s degree is enough to get you qualified. An associate’s degree allows you to become an RN and therefore allows you to work in home healthcare and become certified. Of course if you have a higher degree you may earn more and be hired for more jobs, but an associate’s degree is the basic qualification that you need. To earn an associate’s degree:
- Create a shortlist of schools in your area based on their reputation and your personal desires
- Apply to at least three different schools to keep your options open
- Complete all of the course requirements as specified by your chosen program
- Graduating from the program will earn you an associate’s degree in nursing and pave your way to being a home healthcare nurse
Obtain Your Licensure
The only license that you need in order to be a home healthcare nurse is your RN license. However you do have the options of becoming certified. You can become certified by passing the Home Health Care Nurse certification exam through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Becoming certified in home healthcare nursing is not a requirement, but it will make a difference to your employment opportunities. Employers are far more likely to hire a home healthcare nurse who is certified over one who isn’t, although you should still be able to get work if you are not certified. Being certified also makes it clear that you are an expert in the field and brings with it a higher degree of respect for you and for your chosen line of work in the health care profession.
Online/Distance Education Programs
There are online options when it comes to earning an RN degree, but you need to be very careful when considering this learning method. You will have to complete your clinical training in an actual healthcare setting, so there is no way that a nursing degree can be completed entirely online. You can, however, complete your theoretical training online while completing a practical internship elsewhere. This is easier for many students to fit into their schedule than a full time training program. The school you attend must be accredited. It is often better to only consider online programs that also offer on-campus training because these schools tend to have a better reputation as well as better credentials than schools that only offer RN training degree programs online.
There are a number of reasons why we can expect an excellent job outlook for home healthcare nurses in the very near future:
- The Boomer generation is so there will be an increase in elderly people who may need home health care as they age
- Many people have expressed that they prefer to be cared for at home and home health care is therefore becoming more common
- The advancement of technologies that allow nurses to perform complex procedures outside of a hospital setting also play a role
Nursing in general is expected to grow by about 22% but the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 33% growth rate for home health care nurses, making it one of the fastest growing careers in the United States.
As a home healthcare nurse you can expect an hourly rate of about $17.99 – $43.44 an hour. When you factor in the potential for overtime at $9.21 – $73.45 an hour as well as the possibility for an annual bonus of anything between $0.00 and $3,020, the total amount you could earn is $34,485 – $86,261 a year. A number of factors affect how much you can earn. The industry you work in is one of these factors:
- In Home Health Care you can earn about $18.51 – $43.68 an hour
- In Healthcare can earn about $16.20 – $40.20 an hour
- In a Nursing Home can earn about $18.52 – $38.27 an hour
- In Community Nursing can earn about $13.50 – $44.17 an hour
- In Nurse Staffing can earn about $14.33 – $42.25 an hour
Your degree will also affect how much you earn:
- With a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) you can expect to earn about $23.84 – $51.06 an hour
- With an Associate’s Degree you can expect to earn about $21.02 – $30.91 an hour
Becoming a home healthcare nurse offers a very compelling salary. In addition you will not necessarily be tied down by the same schedule as you would in a hospital and you would probably be working in slightly more comfortable conditions. Home healthcare nurses are able to work with the same patients for long periods of time, which allows them to build up a real and meaningful relationship with them.