How to Become a Home Health Nurse: Education, Salary, and Job Outlook
One of the great benefits of a nursing career is the wide variety of employment opportunities available, including non-traditional work environments like home healthcare. Working in home care nursing could be an especially appealing option if you want more independence and autonomy throughout the day, as well as a flexible work schedule beyond a typical 12-hour hospital shift.
Plus, serving patients in the comfort of their own homes is a more personal setting than a medical office, and you may have the chance to make a life-changing impact on people with diverse backgrounds and ages, from newborns to the elderly.
What’s more, job opportunities for home health nurses are expected to rise. In fact, home healthcare is one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S., and many home healthcare agencies are competing to recruit qualified nurses to fill this growing need.
What Is Home Health Nursing?
Home health nurses provide one-on-one care for patients in their homes. Patients who need home health nursing may be elderly, disabled, or terminally ill, but they may also be recovering from an injury or accident or living with a chronic disease. Some home health nurses also work with pregnant women and new mothers to provide ongoing care, education, and support.
Home healthcare may involve assisting patients with basic needs such as bathing and dressing, as well as more specialized services such as wound care, medication management, and IV therapy.
Home Health Nurse Job Description
Home health nurses might perform a variety of tasks during each patient visit, depending on the type of patient and the specific plan of care.
A home health nurse job description may include any of the following:
- Make an initial health evaluation and individualized plan of care
- Administer medications and assist with pain management
- Clean and dress wounds
- Document symptoms and vital signs
- Monitor patient health and update care plan accordingly
- Instruct patients and their families on proper home care
- Provide suggestions to improve safety at home
- Detect early symptoms that could lead to a hospital visit
- Supervise home health aides
- Communicate with physicians, social workers, or other health advisors
- Provide encouragement and support
Successful home health nurses must be organized, detail-oriented, and possess effective communication and problem-solving skills. Because the home environment can often be unpredictable, a sense of humor and a positive attitude can come in handy as well.
Types of Home Health Nursing
Home health nurses may work with one patient on a long-term, full-time basis, or they might visit multiple patients each day. They may specialize in one area, or integrate several specialties into their line of work, including:
- Community/public health
- Psychiatric/mental health
A variety of employers hire home health nurses, including home health and hospice agencies, insurance companies, retirement communities, hospital systems, medical centers, and government organizations.
Home Health Nurse Salary and Benefits
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses earn a median annual income of $77,600.
In some instances, a licensed practical or vocational nurse might also be able to work as a home health nurse. These positions earn a median salary of $48,820 per year, according to the BLS.
Due to the specialized nature of the position, home health nurses might make more than the average, along with additional benefits such as overtime pay, health insurance, training programs, flexible schedules, paid time off, and a retirement savings plan.
Home Health Nurse Education and Training
What are the home health nurse qualifications necessary to start a career in the field? There are a few different education and training paths available, and some require more schooling than others.
The first step to pursuing a career as a home health nurse is to fulfill the education requirements. Many job postings for home health nurses require less than a bachelor’s degree and are open to hiring a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN) with a diploma or certificate from an accredited, state-approved program.
These programs often take about one year to complete and are available at community colleges and technical schools. LPNs and LVNs must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) to get a license.
For more advanced training, you can also study to become a registered nurse by completing a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN), a diploma from an approved nursing program, or a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Like LPNs and LVNs, RNs must a National Council Licensure Examination.
Training for RNs
Though additional education isn’t required, you may want to consider a more advanced degree to specialize your education, be more competitive in the job market, or pursue a leadership role in the future. RN-to-BSN programs are designed to help ADN-prepared nurses earn a bachelor’s degree quickly.
Some nurses also go on to earn a two-year master’s degree in nursing to become an advanced practice nurse or clinical nurse specialist in a home healthcare setting.
A master’s degree may allow you to pursue a concentration or specialized track such as community health, mental health, or acute care.
Home Health Nursing Certification
The American Nurses Association (ANA) used to offer a Home Health Clinical Nurse Specialist Certification, but it’s now available for renewal only.
Finding Home Care Jobs
Home care nursing jobs are available through home health agencies, hospice organizations, retirement communities, and insurance companies. In addition, some government agencies hire public health nurses to visit vulnerable patient populations in their homes to help improve access to care.
Employers may prefer to hire nurses who have some previous nursing experience. In addition, a CPR certification is often required, along with a driver’s license and access to dependable transportation.
Demand for Home Health Nurses
According to the BLS, overall healthcare employment is expected to grow by 9% through 2030. Home healthcare services include nurses, personal care aides, physical therapists, and a variety of other healthcare workers.
Rapid Job Growth in Home Healthcare
Home healthcare is growing for several reasons. Due to financial pressures, patients are being discharged from hospitals sooner when they still need healthcare. Also, an increasing number of older people want care that allows them to maintain their independence and stay in their own homes, which will drive the need for home healthcare services in the future.
Home healthcare can also result in greater patient satisfaction and encourage people to comply more readily with treatments, helping to improve overall health outcomes.
Plus, the cost of home healthcare can be lower than some hospitals or skilled nursing facilities, which may incentivize people to choose home healthcare services as a go-to option.
Given the growth of the healthcare sector, it may come as no surprise that the demand for nurses is increasing overall. The job outlook for registered nurses in any setting is expected to grow by 9% through 2030, a rate that’s just higher than that of the national average for all occupations.
Nurses who pursue roles in this field could likely experience job security over the long term. As noted by the BLS, healthcare tends to be relatively recession-proof compared to other industries, and jobs that rely on personal interaction (such as nursing) are difficult to automate or outsource.
Healthcare and an Aging Population
As baby boomers age, the need for healthcare services is expected to rise, putting a strain on the system and requiring more and more nurses to fill the gap. Older people tend to have more medical concerns than younger people, with a higher prevalence of chronic diseases which often require regular medical attention. Nurses will be needed in home health settings to care for these older patients.
Not only that, more baby boomers will also retire and exit the workforce over the coming decade, and healthcare organizations will be scrambling to fill these empty roles, including those for RNs, LPNs, and LVNs. Due to these underlying demographic shifts, new job and advancement opportunities will continue to open up for nurses.