Home health nurses provide care to patients in their own homes, including monitoring their health, treating wounds, performing tests, and administering medication. They may supervise nurse aides or home health aides.
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What Does a Home Health Nurse Do?
ADN or BSN required
Home health nurse jobs provide clinical healthcare to patients in their homes under the supervision of a physician or nurse practitioner. While most home health nurses take care of older adults with disabilities or provide hospice/palliative care, they also serve patients recently discharged from hospitals needing additional care.
Key responsibilities include the following:
- Treating wounds or injuries
- Administering treatments
- Monitoring vital signs and performing tests
Where Do Home Health Nurses Work?
Home health nurses provide care in patients’ homes, but work from a variety of settings, including hospice and homecare organizations, community facilities, and hospitals.
Nurses administer medications, treat injuries and wounds, communicate with or educate family caregivers, and ensure patient’s physical comfort.
Nurses administer medications, conduct tests, and coordinate care with other agencies or organizations.
Nurses treat patients recovering from surgeries who no longer need inpatient care, administer medications, monitor and report vital signs, and conduct tests.
Why Become a Home Health Nurse?
Home health nurses help patients to remain in their homes during treatment rather than a hospital, and they get to know patients in a more personal way than hospital nurses. Like all registered nurse (RN) salaries, home health nurse salaries are above the national average. Home hospice nursing holds particularly powerful pros and cons from an emotional perspective.
Advantages To Becoming a Home Health Nurse
- Establish personal relationships with patients and family members
- Patients are generally happier at home.
- Less clinical atmosphere than a hospital
- Can have more flexible scheduling
Disadvantages To Becoming a Home Health Nurse
- Some family members or situations can be unwelcoming.
- Need to travel from location to location
- More isolated from clinical colleagues
- Fewer medical resources immediately at hand if a patient needs them
How To Become a Home Health Nurse
Earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).
Pass the NCLEX-RN to receive RN licensure.
The National Council Licensure Examination for RNs is a national examination
that takes up to six hours and covers medicine, nursing practice, psychology and communication, and legal/ethical aspects of nursing.
Gain required nursing experience.
Most home health nurse jobs call for at least 2-3 years of medical-surgical or critical care nursing, given the high level of job autonomy.
Consider a certification in home health nursing.
While it is not a requirement to practice as a home health nurse, the certification to become board certified
can be valuable. However, it is no longer available for new certifications, only for renewals.
How Much Do Home Health Nurses Make?
Home health nurses with the RN credential earn a median annual salary of $73,300, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) earn a median $29,640, below the $39,810 annual median salary for all jobs in the United States.
Both home health nurses and CNAs remain in demand. BLS projects nursing assistant jobs to increase by 8% between 2019 and 2029, with nursing positions expected to increase by 7%. Home health nurse jobs and home health nursing assistant jobs may grow at a faster rate because of the rising emphasis on providing care in homes rather than hospitals and the aging population of the United States.
How Home Health Per Visit Pay Works
Many home healthcare nurses receive salary pay, but others are paid per visit. Those paid per visit usually receive earnings through private insurance companies or government programs, such as Medicaid or Medicare, that use set fees. Usually, the first visit pays more than subsequent visits, since the first visit often takes longer to complete paperwork, meet family members for the first time, and assess the patient’s needs.
Laws about overtime pay are often in flux, but according to federal law, home health nurses paid by visit are not eligible for overtime pay. However, state laws may vary.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a home health nurse?
It takes two years to earn an ADN or four years to earn a BSN and obtain RN licensure. Most employers prefer at least 2-3 years of experience in an acute care or surgical setting before becoming a home health nurse. CNA requirements vary by state but do not call for a college degree.
Can home health nurses prescribe medicine?
Home health nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses can prescribe medicine, including controlled substances. Other home healthcare nurses without that extra education or certification cannot prescribe medication.
What is the difference between a CNA and an RN?
CNA certification requires a high school diploma or GED certificate, the completion of a state-approved training course with a minimum of 75 hours, and a passing score on the nurse assistant certification test. RNs must hold at least an ADN degree, though many jobs require or prefer a BSN, and must also pass the national licensure test.
Who do home health nurses work alongside on a home health team?
Home health nurses carry out the treatment prescribed by physicians or nurse practitioners. They may supervise CNAs or home health aides. In addition, they may work with other care providers, such as social workers or hospice/palliative care, psychologists, counselors, or chaplains.
Resources for Home Health Nurses
National Association for Home Care & Hospice
NAHC offers education, conducts research, engages in advocacy, and posts a job board for hospice care providers at all levels, including homecare nurses. Membership is open to agencies, providers, and solutions providers, among other organizations. Financial managers can join NAHC's Home Care and Hospice Financial Managers Association subsidiary.
American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine provides education, job listings, resources, and networking for physicians and advocates engaged in hospice and palliative care. Membership is also open to hospice nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals in hospice or palliative care.
International Home Care Nurses Organization
IHSNO's mission is to promote global connections among homecare nurses and provide resources for best practices in home healthcare. IHCNO offers networking, education, and guidelines for homecare nurses. Free membership is open to all home healthcare nurses.
Home Healthcare Now
Home Healthcare Now is a journal for home healthcare nurses. Access to some articles is free while others require a paid subscription. Homecare nurses can earn continuing education credits for reading certain articles through CEConnection. The site also includes home health nurse job listings.
Nicole Galan, RN, MSN
Nicole Galan, RN, MSN is a registered nurse who started in a general medical/surgical care unit and then moved to infertility care where she worked for almost 10 years. She has also worked for over 13 years as a freelance writer specializing in consumer health sites and educational materials for nursing students. Galan currently works as a full-time freelancer and recently earned her master’s degree in nursing education from Capella University.