What Is a Home Health Nurse?

Home health nursing is a specialty available to registered nurses (RNs) as well as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), and nurse assistants. Home health nursing staff are responsible for caring for patients in their homes, performing various tasks if patients and/or their families are unable to care for themselves. Skills from many different specialties are necessary in the field of home health:

  • Medical-surgical
  • Mental health
  • Gerontology
  • Pediatrics
  • Community/public health

Integrating these skills as well as performing task-based services are part of home health nursing.

Becoming a Home Health Nurse

There are certain levels of home health nursing. Regardless of the level, home health nurses must value autonomy, individualized care, and family-centered care. The first step in becoming a home health nurse is to decide whether to pursue a career as an RN, LVN, or nurse assistant.

What Are the Educational Requirements for a Home Health Nurse?

  • Registered nurses must complete an accredited nursing program and obtain either an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science degree (BSN). They must also pass the NCLEX exam for licensure.
  • Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) must also complete an accredited nursing program and test for licensure. LVNs are skilled in performing task-based nursing care, which is a large part of home health care.
  • Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) are unlicensed staff who perform task-based care, excluding medication administration. Certain nurse assistants can obtain certification.

Are Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?

While additional education is not required, registered nurses can advance their practice by becoming a home health clinical nurse specialist by obtaining their master's degree in nursing (MSN). Additionally, they can pursue advanced practice nursing (APN) by their state board of registered nursing. Some home health positions require 1-2 years of prior acute care experience.

Where Do Home Health Nurses Work?

Home health nursing staff work within patients' homes. They usually have a facility in which they report to receive their assignment. After receiving their assignment, they drive to patients' home to perform the specified nursing care as ordered by the physician.

What Do Home Health Nurses Do?

Based on their credentials, home health nursing staff perform a variety of tasks.

Registered nurses perform the following duties:

  • Medication administration, including intravenous infusions
  • Wound care/ dressing changes
  • Taking vital signs
  • Performing head-to-toe physical assessments
  • Drawing labs
  • Assisting with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, toileting, grooming
  • Assisting with mobility
  • Developing a plan of care with the physician

Licensed Vocational Nurses perform the following duties:

  • Medication administration, excluding intravenous infusions
  • Wound care/ dressing changes
  • Taking vital signs
  • Reporting to the supervising RN any concerns the patient may have
  • Assisting with ADLs
  • Assisting with mobility

Nurse Assistants perform the following duties:

  • Taking vital signs
  • Report to the supervising RN any concerns the patient may have
  • Assisting with ADLs
  • Assisting with mobility

What Are the Roles and Duties of the Home Health Nurse?

The roles and duties of home health nurses are dependent upon their individual credentials.

Registered nurses are responsible for:

  • Assessing the patient's needs
  • Developing a plan of care based on individual patient needs
  • Collaborate with the patient, family, physician, and additional support staff to provide individualized care
  • Direct LVNs and nurse assistants, and provide oversight to their care
  • Evaluate patient's response to treatment
  • Monitor progress of healing/ mobilization
  • Case management
  • Direct nursing care

Licensed Vocational Nurses are responsible for:

  • Collecting data and presenting findings to the RN
  • Direct task-based nursing care

Nursing assistants are responsible for:

  • Task-based nursing care
  • Report concerns/ findings to registered nurse

Home Health Nurse FAQs

There are many uncontrollable factors in a patient’s home that can give rise to challenges that home health nurses must overcome.

Navigating an unkempt home isn’t unusual for this type of nurse. The layout or structure of the home can present challenges as well. Some patients with mobility issues may not have the appropriate safety equipment installed. For example, a bathroom that cannot fit a wheelchair. This can be a safety risk, as improper transfer techniques may be used and result in injury to the staff and/or the patient.

Many patients require home injections or IV infusion. Without a sharps container nearby, the nurse may have to administer a medication and then walk a distance to dispose of the needle in another room. He or she may not even have disposal access at all, causing them to recap the needle, which results in most needle stick injuries.

Confused or angry patients, such as those with dementia or Alzheimer's, can become agitated or violent with a stranger in their home. The risk increases if the nurse must do something that will cause pain, such as injections or lab draws. A Home Health Nurse does not have access to additional staff for assistance in case a patient confrontation escalates. Home Health Nurses must be diligent to check their safety and surroundings, remain calm, and report any suspicious activity or safety concerns when appropriate.

Home Health Nurse Salary & Employment

Medically stable patients who still need nursing care can qualify for home health care. Certain patients with mobility challenges and those who have difficulty traveling to a health care facility can also qualify for home health. As the aging population increases and hospitals strive to reduce costs by reducing the number of unnecessary lengthy hospital stays, home health nurses (RNs, LVNs, and NAs) are in high demand. According to salary.com, the median income for a home health RN is $75,871 annually. An LVN/LPN can earn $47,546, while a home health assistant can earn $25,952. These values can vary depending on the state or city of employment, as well as experience.

Helpful Organizations, Societies, & Agencies

Share This: