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Home Health Nurse Career Overview

NurseJournal Staff
Updated September 20, 2023
Reviewed by
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    Read on to discover home health nurse jobs, what home healthcare nurses do, and home health nurse salary expectations.
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    A cheerful African-American nurse is helping a senior female patient to use a walking frame. The nurse has her arms around the patient's left shoulder and back to offer support. They are both inside the patient's home living room.Credit: izusek / E+ / Getty Images

    Home Care Nurse

    how long to become

    job outlook

    job outlook7% growth from 2019-2029For Registered Nurses (RNs)

    average earning potential

    average earning potential$73,300SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    What Does a Home Health Nurse Do?

    ADN or BSN required
    certification optional

    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:

    Primary Responsibilities

    • Treating wounds or injuries
    • Administering treatments
    • Monitoring vital signs and performing tests

    Career Traits

    • Empathy
    • Communication
    • Collaboration
    • Flexibility

    Credit: Ronnie Kaufman / DigitalVision / Getty Images

    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.

    • minusHospice/Homecare

      Nurses administer medications, treat injuries and wounds, communicate with or educate family caregivers, and ensure patient’s physical comfort.

    • minusCommunity Facilities

      Nurses administer medications, conduct tests, and coordinate care with other agencies or organizations.

    • minusHospitals

      Nurses treat patients recovering from surgeries who no longer need inpatient care, administer medications, monitor and report vital signs, and conduct tests.

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    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

    • check-circleEstablish personal relationships with patients and family members
    • check-circlePatients are generally happier at home
    • check-circleLess clinical atmosphere than a hospital
    • check-circleCan have more flexible scheduling

    Disadvantages To Becoming a Home Health Nurse

    • x-circleSome family members or situations can be unwelcoming
    • x-circleNeed to travel from location to location
    • x-circleMore isolated from clinical colleagues
    • x-circleFewer 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).

    The ADN degree takes two years to complete, while the BSN takes four years. However, the BSN is a requirement for advancement for most home healthcare nurse jobs.

    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.

    Learn More About How to Become a Home Healthcare Nurse

    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.

    Questions About a Career as a Home Health Nurse

    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 NAHCs 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

      IHSNOs 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.

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