How to Become a Home Health Nurse

Get a home health nursing career overview with education, salary and career outlook information.

The Basics

What you'll do: Home health nurses provide care in the homes of their patients. Patients who need home health nursing are usually elderly or disabled, but they may also be recovering from an accident or suffering from a serious illness. Home health care involves assisting patients with basic needs such as bathing and dressing, as well as more specialized care, such as wound care, medication management and IV therapy.

Minimum degree you'll need to practice: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Certification: At the Master's degree-level you can pursue whatever certification is appropriate to your specialty.

Median annual salary: $65,470*

Home Health Nurse Career Overview

home health nurse with a patient

Because patients are being discharged from hospitals sooner—and sicker—and because technological advances now make it possible to provide increasingly complex treatments in the home, there is an increasing need for highly skilled clinical nurse specialists in the home setting.

Home health nurses and clinical nurse specialists work primarily for home health care agencies. They may work directly with patients or serve as administrators or policy developers. They may also work in hospitals and other settings as consultants and educators.

At the registered nurse (RN) level, home health nurses work to assess the home environment and determine the needs of patients. They may work with one patient on a long-term, full-time basis, or they may visit multiple patients each day. The following tasks are some of the common daily activities of a home health nurse:

  • Administering medications
  • Cleaning and dressing wounds
  • Monitoring patient health and needs
  • Documenting symptoms and vital signs
  • Instructing patients and their families on proper home care
  • Supervising home health aides
  • Providing encouragement and support 

Home Health Nurse Education

Home health nurses must be registered nurses (RNs). You can become an RN by completing a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, a 2- to 3-year hospital diploma program or a 2-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). To become a home health care clinical nurse specialist, you will need a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree that includes specialized coursework in your desired focus area. Many nursing schools offer this type of degree through a 2-year program. You can then seek recognition as an advanced practice nurse (APN) by your state board of nursing.

Home Health Nurse Career Outlook

Home health nursing is one of the fastest growing fields in nursing for a variety of reasons. As previously mentioned, patients are being discharged from hospitals sooner and sicker due to financial pressures. In addition, the elderly population is increasing and many people over 55 have disabilities. Consumers have shown a clear preference for in-home care to hospitalization or long-term care facilities, creating more demand for home health nurses.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook; Registered Nurses.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.