Home health nurses play an important role in the community. They assist patients and their families to return to optimal functioning within their home and community. Nurses go into patient’s homes to perform assessments, manage symptoms, coordinate different therapeutic services and evaluate the effectiveness of those services. The nurse is also responsible for overseeing the nurse’s aids who work with the patient. This ensures that the patient is receiving safe and appropriate care.
Nurses who provide home care can work with many different populations, depending on the agency they are employed with. Some agencies treat only children, others work with patients who are dying and wish to remain at home, and still others work only with women who recently delivered a child to help them recover from the delivery and provide parenting support.
There are many advantages to being a home care nurse. Most nurses set their own hours and can schedule personal errands around patient visits. They must, of course, see the patient according to the schedule determined by the home health agency, but there is a great deal more flexibility than the traditional hospital job. This also makes home health nursing a great part time job to earn extra money when not working in a hospital or clinic.
Home care nurses report having a great deal of autonomy and respect from the physicians they work with. Because the physician is not readily available to assess the patient as frequently, they truly rely on the clinical skills and judgment of the nurse. For this reason, nursing assessment skills must be exceptional.
Nurses can work in the home health system right out of nursing school, but it is recommended that they gain some general medical experience first in order to feel more confident in their assessments and recommendations.
Currently, there are no initial certification programs for the home health clinical nurse, but the National Association for Home care and Hospice does offer certification for home health aids and those in executive leadership positions. Check out their website and that of the nursing division for additional information.