A wonderful thing about being a nurse is the many opportunities to use your skills to improve patients’ lives. One way to use your nursing skills is to provide care for your patients in the comfort of their homes. According to research, patients who received home care services had better medication compliance, higher care satisfaction and better quality of life.1 As a home health nurse, you can play an integral role in the healing process.
But what does a home health nurse do for their patients? Learn why we need home health nurses, what home health nurses do, and the benefits of this non-traditional nursing role.
In this Article:
- What Is a Home Health Nurse?
- What Does a Home Health Nurse Do on Their Visits?
- Challenges and Rewards of Home Health Nursing
- Qualities of a Home Health Nurse
- Benefits and Earning Potential for Home Health Nurses
- Is Home Health Nursing Right for You?
What Is a Home Health Nurse?
The role of the home health nurse first arose from a need to provide care to underserved populations, particularly in rural areas, where people could not access hospitals in bigger cities due to geographic distance or cost.
Home health nurses can not only improve patient outcomes, but they can also have an impact on reducing the cost of care as well. Early visits by a home health nurse can help keep patients out of the hospital and avoid emergency room visits.1
What Does a Home Health Nurse Do on Their Visits?
Home health care nurses have a wide array of responsibilities during their home visits. Regardless of the setting, home health nurses follow the nursing process:2
- Assess: Check vital signs and track patients' trends — monitor mobility, diet, pain relief, etc. It is essential to assess the patient first to improve their health outcomes.
- Diagnose: Nursing diagnoses address actual or potential health problems on the part of the patient, family or community.
- Plan: Outline actionable steps the patient or family can take to help them progress toward mutually agreed goals.
- Intervention: Health activities such as administering medications, filling pill reminder boxes, performing wound care and dressing changes, and educating patients and their families are just a few of the interventions.
- Evaluation: Measure the intervention and determine whether it improved the problem. Make a new plan if the goal is not met.
Home health nurses don’t just care for the elderly and sick; they can provide in-home services to patients of all ages, including newborns and children, assess growth checks and administer vaccinations.
Another crucial home health nurse skill is patient education. Home health nurses are exceptionally skilled at explaining medical matters to patients and their families, as well as what to monitor when the nurse is not around, like the signs and symptoms of infection or when to seek medical help if something doesn’t seem right.3
Challenges and Rewards of Home Health Nursing
Being a home health nurse is not without challenges. Home health nurses usually work by themselves. This means that, to be successful, nurses need to be self-motivated, organized, resourceful and compatible with the job’s high degree of independence.
Home health nurses must also be adaptable. When entering a patient's home, they may encounter variable living conditions and different socioeconomic, cultural or religious preferences among their patients. As with any nursing profession, they must put aside any preconceptions and provide the same quality and compassionate care to everyone.
Home health nurses may find the emotional bonds they form with their patients to be rewarding. By reducing their patients’ stress and helping them avoid long travel distances to get care, nurses have the opportunity to see their patients’ health and quality of life improve.1
Qualities of a Home Health Nurse
The most important qualities of home health nursing include an independent work ethic, critical thinking and keen problem-solving abilities. Home health nurses must also have empathy and the ability to build trusting patient relationships. Balancing the challenges and rewards is vital to a successful home health nurse career.
Other things to consider when becoming a home health nurse include how far you are willing to travel to care for your patients, and how you will get there — personal car, company car, public transportation? If you live in a city center, you may not have to travel very far, but if you live in a rural community, it may take longer. Be sure to discuss travel arrangements and supplies with your employer. You will likely need various nursing supplies, like gloves, bandages, testing kits and something to document your visits on (paper or electronic chart).
Benefits and Earning Potential for Home Health Nurses
Most home health nurses work for a home health agency — or sometimes directly for an insurance company. Most agencies have agreements with multiple private insurance companies, or with Medicare or Medicaid, to provide care to patients in their homes at the direction of a medical provider.
But how much does a home health nurse make? Regional variations and different levels of education among home health nurse mean that the salary for a home health nurse can vary across the country. According to the BLS, however, the median annual wage for registered nurses was $81,220 in May 2022.4
Is Home Health Nursing Right for You?
Today’s home health nurses serve a vital role in our healthcare ecosystem by delivering personalized nursing care in a familiar environment. Now we can answer what does a home health nurse do? knowing that home health nurses can contribute to better patient outcomes, improved quality of life and reduced healthcare costs.1
If you enjoy the autonomy to care for your patients one-on-one in the comfort of their own home, and if you thrive on being able to adapt and problem-solve, then home health nursing may be right for you. You can get started on your nursing career by earning your accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) from Grand Canyon University in as few as 16 months.5 Complete the form on this page to connect with a GCU university counselor.
1 Lizano-Díez, I., Amaral-Rohter, S., Pérez-Carbonell, L., & Aceituno, S. (2021, August 31). Impact of Home Care Services on Patient and Economic Outcomes: A Targeted Review. Home Health Care Management & Practice. SagePub.com. Retrieved August 25, 2023.
2 Toney-Butler, T. J., & Thayer, J. M. (2020, April 14). PubMed. Nursing Process. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved August 25, 2023.
3 Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. (2023, July 24). Know the Signs and Symptoms of Infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved August 22, 2023.
4 The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Registered Nurses as of May 2022, retrieved on August 25, 2023. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may also impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the BLS. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers from across the country with varying levels of education and experience and does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates as Registered Nurses. It does not reflect earnings of workers in one city or region of the country. It also does not reflect a typical entry-level salary. Median income is the statistical midpoint for the range of salaries in a specific occupation. It represents what you would earn if you were paid more money than half the workers in an occupation, and less than half the workers in an occupation. It may give you a basis to estimate what you might earn at some point if you enter this career. You may also wish to compare median salaries if you are considering more than one career path. Grand Canyon University can make no guarantees on individual graduates’ salaries as the employer the graduate chooses to apply to, and accept employment from, determines salary not only based on education, but also individual characteristics and skills and fit to that organization (among other categories) against a pool of candidates.
5 Secondary applicants must transfer a minimum of 60 of the required 123 credits or have completed a baccalaureate degree which includes nine prerequisite courses/labs and 10 general education courses prior to starting the core nursing courses, which can be completed in as few as 16 months. Direct entry applicants that do not transfer 60 credits but meet the minimum requirements can complete these credits through GCU prior to starting the core nursing courses. Depending on the state where student has enrolled or intends to complete the program, student may require additional courses. This may include, but is not limited to, additional general education courses, courses in the major, clinical courses, or a different course sequence. See University Policy Handbook.
Approved by the dean of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions on Oct. 16, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.