How to Become a Private Duty Nurse

August 5, 2022 · 5 Min Read

Reviewed by Brandy Gleason MSN, MHA, BC-NC

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Private duty nursing is an alternative to working in a healthcare setting. This guide on how to become a private duty nurse explains entry to the field.

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How to Become a Private Duty Nurse
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Private duty nursing involves caring for patients in their homes. It often means a longer commitment to a patient with a chronic or terminal condition, and longer shifts than home health nursing.

If you want to develop a longer-term relationship with your patient and prefer to work outside a traditional healthcare setting, consider becoming a private duty nurse.

This guide explains how to become a private duty nurse and what the work is like. Keep reading for more on responsibilities, salaries, and the required skills and licensing.

What Is a Private Duty Nurse?

Private duty nurses care for patients outside of traditional healthcare settings, often with responsibility for just one or two patients. Shifts range from 4-24 hours, while home health nursing often requires a shorter shift.

Private duty nursing can be emotionally rewarding because it helps keep patients in their own homes and with their families. But because private duty nursing patients tend to be terminal or have very serious chronic conditions, private duty nursing can be emotionally taxing.

Steps to Becoming a Private Duty Nurse

RNs attend either a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program. Licensed practical nurses/licensed vocational nurses can finish a BSN in approximately two years by enrolling in an RN-to-BSN program.

The NCLEX-RN examination is a multiple-hour examination covering practical nursing skills, administering treatments, patient communications, safety and infection control, and the legal and ethical aspects of nursing. A school's NCLEX-RN exam pass rate is an excellent indicator of program quality.

Like other RN specialties, becoming a private duty nurse involves closely supervised on-the-job learning. Many private duty nurses start as LPNs/LVNs, working under an RN's supervision. Some RNs start private duty nursing after working in another healthcare setting, so their learning focuses on caring for patients as the only provider on duty.

Certification demonstrates specialized knowledge and commitment to a field. In addition to certification in critical care nursing, other relevant certifications include pain management, oncology, or palliative care.

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Private Duty Nurse Education

How you become a private duty nurse depends on your goals and background. The fastest and most affordable route is to earn an ADN, which takes two years.

Many employers prefer or require a BSN for higher-level positions. A BSN prepares you to earn an MSN and become an advanced practice nurse (APRN), such as a nurse practitioner.

ADN Degree

An ADN is best for those who want to start working as soon as possible, have a limited budget, or whose high school grades do not fully reflect their abilities. This degree takes two years and often has cheaper tuition than a BSN.

Admission requirements for an ADN can be less strenuous. However, a BSN is more valuable for career development or earning a graduate degree.

High school diploma or GED certificate, science and math classes

Practical nursing skills, safety and infection control, communication, legal and ethical aspects

Two years

Monitoring patients, administering medical tests, wound treatment, using medical equipment, updating medical records

BSN Degree

A BSN degree covers the same nursing skills and fundamentals as an ADN, but has more theoretical content, more advanced topics, and classes to prepare students for a master's degree. Because many employers require or prefer a BSN for supervisory positions, BSNs are more valuable for long-term career development.

High school diploma or GED certificate, science and math classes, 3.0 minimum GPA

Theory and practice of nursing; quality and safety, mental and public health; communication; leadership; legal and ethical aspects of nursing

Four years

Practical nursing skills: monitoring patients and administering tests; nursing research; nurse leadership

Private Duty Nurse Licensure and Certification

Becoming a private duty nurse requires earning and maintaining an RN license. Nurses maintain their license by continuing nursing education. This education can involve attending certain conferences and classes from approved providers, or undertaking specific professional independent learning, such as reading articles and passing a test.

Unlike licensing, certification is optional. The most specific certification is from the National Association of Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), the Private Duty Home Care Certification for agencies.

Private duty nurses often seek certification from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses' Critical Care RN (CCRN). Agencies must follow specific standards to become certified.

Working as a Private Duty Nurse

According to Salary.com, the average annual salary for a private duty nurse is $66,292. Salaries are highest in Alaska, California, District of Columbia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Private duty nurse salaries vary based on education and certifications, experience, and local demand.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Private Duty Nurse


How long does it take to become a private duty nurse?

Becoming a private duty nurse takes at least two years to earn an ADN and pass the NCLEX-RN examination. Earning a BSN takes four years. If earning an ADN is the better option for you right now, you can enroll in an RN-to-BSN or RN-to-MSN program later.

What do private duty nurses do?

Private duty nurses care for patients in their homes. They monitor patients' conditions, ensure that medical equipment is working correctly, and administer prescribed treatments. Private duty nursing patients often require more extensive care for more serious conditions or for chronic conditions than home health nursing patients do.

What skills do you need to become a private duty nurse?

In addition to practical nursing skills, you must be able to communicate well with patients and families, make good nursing decisions independently, and be able to thrive emotionally while caring for patients with very serious conditions.

Do private duty nurses get paid well?

Private duty nurse salaries are comparable to other RN salaries. Salaries for private duty nursing vary based on geography, experience, certifications and education, and employer.


Page Last Reviewed: July 12, 2022


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