Home health nursing is a specialty in which registered nurses (RNs), licensed vocational/practical nurses (LVNs/LPNs), and certified nurse assistants (CNAs) provide multidimensional home care to patients of all ages, typically on a one-on-one and/or long-term basis. Home health care is generally intended for patients who are well enough to be discharged from health care facilities, but still need nursing personnel to evaluate, initiate, and supervise nursing interventions. Patients who require the services of a home health nurse may be disabled, elderly, or terminally ill, or they may be living with a chronic disease or recovering from an injury or accident. Some home health nurses also assist pregnant women and new mothers, providing them with ongoing care, education, and support.
Common specialties that are often covered by home health nurses include:
Roles and duties commonly carried out by home health nurses will depend on whether they are a registered nurse (RN), licensed vocational/practical nurse (LVN/LPN), or a certified nursing assistant (CNA). These duties may include:
For certified nursing assistants (CNAs):
For licensed vocational/practical nurses (LVNs/LPNs):
For registered nurses (RNs):
Obviously, home health nurses primarily carry out their work in patients' homes or residences. Common employers include:
There are a number of different ways to become a home health nurse, as well as different levels of home health nursing. No matter the level, if you're thinking about a career as a home health nurse, you should value family-centered care, individualized care, and autonomy. The initial step you'll need to take before beginning is to decide which kind of home health nurse you would like to be - certified nursing assistant (CNA), licensed practical or vocational nurse (LPN/LVN), or a registered nurse (RN).
Educational requirements will differ depending on which particular level of home health nursing one would like to enter into. At the registered nurse's level, you will need an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). After obtaining one of these you'll then need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed as an RN. At the licensed practical nurse's level, you'll need to finish an LPN/LVN program and then pass the NCLEX-PN exam. Lastly, at the CNA level, your task will be to complete a CNA program and then pass the state licensing exam.
Home health nurses should have some kind of nursing diploma, although they don't necessarily have to be a registered nurse. Home health nurses can be certified nursing assistants (CNAs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), registered nurses (RNs), or even nurse practitioners (NPs) with master's degrees.
As far as certifications and credentials go, the American Nurses Association (ANA) used to offer a Home Health Nursing Certification (RN-BC) and a Home Health Clinical Nurse Specialist Certification (HHCNS-BC). However, since the exams for both of these certifications have been phased out these are only available for renewal now. For those who already have the credential, they can continue to renew it every five years.
As the populous baby boomer generation continues to get older they will inevitably require more healthcare. Home health nurses should expect to play a significant role in the coming years as they will be needed to meet the healthcare demands of this aging generation.
According to Salary.com the median annual salary for home health registered nurses is $79,779. The site also reports that median annual salaries for LVN/LPN nurses and home health nursing assistants is $47,546 and $25,952, respectively. Pay rates will vary widely depending on the geographical location of employment, level of experience, credentials, and employer. The same factors will determine what benefits a home health nurse receives. Some employers may include medical, vision, dental, and prescription insurance coverage. However, self-employed home health nurses are likely to have to acquire these things on their own.