How to Become a Home Healthcare Nurse

July 1, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Reviewed by Brandy Gleason

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Home healthcare nurses are in demand. Learn how to become a home healthcare nurse, including education and license requirements.

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How to Become a Home Healthcare Nurse
Credit: Klaus Vedfelt | DigitalVision | Getty Images

Becoming a home healthcare nurse can be a rewarding career, financially and personally. Home nurses can develop longer-lasting relationships with patients and experience the satisfaction of helping keep patients in their own homes.

This guide explains how to become a home healthcare nurse and what to expect. Keep reading to learn about education and licensing requirements and how long it takes to fulfill them.

What Is a Home Healthcare Nurse?

Home healthcare nurses provide care to patients in the patient's own home. They may treat wounds or injuries, monitor patient vital signs and symptoms, and make sure that feeding tubes or other medical equipment are functional and well maintained. They also may provide education to patients and families and administer treatment.

Their patients typically have been released from a hospital after medical procedures or those with chronic needs.

The demand for home healthcare is growing for several reasons. More advanced remote monitoring means that healthcare providers can track more vital signs without the patient having to be on-site. In many cases, it is more affordable to provide care in a home than in an inpatient setting. Data also shows that under many circumstances patients can recover faster in their own homes.

Home healthcare nurses may be paid by the hour, by the patient, or by salary. Employers might provide a travel allowance or reimburse travel expenses.

Steps to Becoming a Home Healthcare Nurse

The minimum qualification to become a home healthcare nurse is a licensed practical nurse/licensed vocational nurse (LPN/LVN) credential, but many agencies and employers prefer a registered nurse (RN), especially for patients with more complex conditions.

1. Complete an LPN/LVN, associate degree in nursing (ADN), or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program.

An LPN/LVN program typically takes one year and emphasizes practical nursing skills. Only an ADN or a bachelor's in nursing qualifies aspiring nurses to take the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) to become a registered nurse. Generally, the ADN takes two years and the BSN takes four years.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) to receive licensure.

The NCLEX-RN examination is a multiple-choice examination on all aspects of nursing. Topics include nursing skills, infection and injury prevention, effective patient and team communication, and legal and ethical aspects of nursing. It is required for an RN license.

The NCLEX-PN examination is also a multiple-choice examination, but it covers fewer topics and in less detail. A passing grade is required to earn an LPN/LVN license.

3. Gain Experience in Clinical Nursing

Many agencies also prefer nurses with more nursing experience because they may need to make independent judgment calls about a patient's condition or needs.

4. Find employment or work with a home healthcare agency

Most home healthcare nurses are hired through home healthcare agencies rather than directly by hospitals or health systems. Be sure to ask about travel policies and requirements, as well as salary and benefits.

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Home Healthcare Nurse Education

An LPN/LVN is the minimum requirement for becoming a home healthcare nurse since it takes just one year of education. However, because of the high level of responsibility they have for patients without on-site backup, most agencies prefer home healthcare nurses to have considerable experience as an LPN/LVN or a higher-level degree.

LPN/LVN Program

Typically, an LPN/LVN degree program takes one year. Most programs are through community colleges. Some programs even let high school students take courses. While the quickest way of becoming a home healthcare nurse, it has more limitations.

1. Admission Requirements

High school diploma or GED certificate, though some schools allow high school students to take courses

2. Program Curriculum

Practical nursing skills; patient safety; ethics

3. Time to Complete

One years

4. Skills Learned

Monitoring patients; keeping electronic health records; taking samples and running tests; recognizing potential infection or other complications; administering medications

ADN Degree

An ADN degree is the fastest way to become an RN. However, it covers less material than a BSN. Some employers may prefer a BSN for higher-level positions.

1. Admission Requirements

High school diploma or GED certificate; math and science classes

2. Program Curriculum

Practical nursing skills; patient safety; communication; healthcare systems; ethics

3. Time to Complete

Two years

4. Skills Learned

Monitoring patients; ensuring patient safety; infection prevention and control; maintaining electronic health records; administering treatments; ethical and legal aspects of nursing

BSN Degree

As well as practical nursing skills, a BSN degree covers nursing theory in more detail and prepares students to enter graduate school to earn a master's degree in nursing. A BSN is the most valuable undergraduate nursing degree if you want to become an administrator, nurse educator, or advanced practice nurse.

1. Admission Requirements

High school diploma or GED certificate; math and science classes; typically a 3.0 GPA

2. Program Curriculum

Practical nursing skills; patient safety; communication; nursing theory; public health; nursing research; evidence-based practice

3. Time to Complete

Four years

4. Skills Learned

Monitoring and caring for patients; understanding and applying evidence-based nursing practice; public health; mental health; nursing leadership

Home Healthcare Nurse Licensure and Certification

To become an RN or LPN/LVN, you must graduate from an accredited nursing program, pass the relevant NCLEX examination, and apply to your state board of nursing for a license. You must also register for a criminal background check with fingerprinting. Some states have additional requirements, such as having no past due taxes or unpaid child support.

Each state also sets its own RN or LPN/LVN requirements for maintaining a license; most of these require continuing professional education.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center used to offer home health nursing certification, but now it is only available for renewal. However, other nursing certifications can be valuable, especially certifications for oncology, infusion treatments, and pain management. Others include hospice and palliative care or other treatments patients are likely to receive at home.

Working as a Home Healthcare Nurse

Becoming a home healthcare nurse can be an excellent choice for nurses who do not mind or like driving and working by themselves. You must have a driver's license and clean driving record.

While they are still part of a healthcare team, they work on their own far more often than nurses who work on-site in healthcare facilities. Most employers require or strongly prefer at least 1-2 years of experience before becoming a home healthcare nurse because you will be working by yourself most of the time without immediate backup.

According to Payscale in June 2022, the average annual salary for home healthcare nurses is $66,280. However, RNs and bilingual home healthcare nurses are likely to earn a higher home healthcare nurse salary.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Home Healthcare Nurse


How many years does it take to become a home healthcare nurse?

It takes at least one year to earn an LPN/LVN license, two years to earn an ADN, and four years to earn a BSN. Most employers require or strongly prefer at least 1-2 years of experience before becoming a home healthcare nurse.

What is the best degree for home healthcare nurses?

How to become a home healthcare nurse will depend on your situation and goals. Earning an LPN/LVN license is fastest, but it is not as valuable as an ADN or a BSN degree and an RN license.

Do home healthcare nurses have flexible schedules?

Home healthcare nurses may have flexible schedules depending on their contract. Contracts usually pay per visit or per hour, and some employers are open to letting nurses choose the number of hours or patients.

Is becoming a home healthcare nurse worth it?

Becoming a home healthcare nurse can pay well, especially in areas with high demand. If you enjoy working on your own and do not mind or even like a lot of driving, it can be very rewarding. Home health nurses who are bilingual have some of the highest earning opportunities in this specialty.

However, if you like a lot of people around you, other healthcare settings may be better suited for you.


Page last reviewed June 23, 2022


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