What Does a Home Health Nurse Do?

Home health nurses play a pivotal role in the care of people of any age — particularly the elderly — who require additional assistance within their own personal residence. With a variety of job duties, as well as rising demand, home health care may be a rewarding and viable career option for nurses completing a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program.

What Are the Duties of a Home Health Nurse?

The primary job responsibilities of a home health nurse can vary greatly depending on the needs of the patient. Patients may require only non-medical services, such as help with activities of daily living (ADL). These can include eating, dressing, bathing, toileting and walking within the home. In addition, nurses may oversee grocery shopping and meal preparation.

Other home health care nurses provide more traditional medical care such as monitoring and dispensing medication, dressing and cleaning wounds, and tracking vitals like blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. Nurses may also evaluate a patient’s status to ensure the patient is progressing as expected and may regularly communicate with family members and other healthcare providers.

Home health nurses may provide any combination of these services. They may also be specially trained to assist patients with certain health conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.

What Are the Benefits of Home Health Nursing?

Home health nursing provides a number of benefits for nurses as well as their patients.

One-on-one care. Typically home health nurses work with only one patient at a time, as opposed to nurses in a hospital or nursing home who care for multiple patients during each shift. This one-on-one engagement allows nurses the opportunity to develop more personalized, long-term relationships with their patients.

Contribution to patient autonomy. The care home health nurses provide allows patients to retain their independence longer by remaining in their homes instead of entering an assisted living facility or nursing home. This can have positive mental and emotional benefits for the patient and be a satisfying accomplishment for nurses.

Cost-effective option. Home health care nursing can be a cost-effective option and minimize the financial burden faced by patients, their families and insurers. According to a 2016 Genworth survey, the median monthly cost for a semi-private room in a nursing home was $6,844. For in-home health care, the median monthly cost was almost half that at $3,861.

Flexible schedule. While many healthcare facilities require long shifts, overnights or weekend hours, home health nurses may be able to arrange more flexible schedules. Depending on the patient’s needs and the agency’s guidelines, nurses may be able to choose from a variety of schedules, including eight-hour and weekday-only shifts.

Is the Demand for Home Health Care Growing?

Data from the Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of Americans aged 65 and older may increase from 46 million to more than 98 million by 2060, eventually representing approximately 24 percent of the total population. Projections anticipate that the aging Baby Boomer generation may result in a 75 percent increase in the need for nursing home care by 2030. The availability of affordable in-home health care may be able to offset that need.

Since the elderly are generally the demographic in need of home health care services, areas attracting a greater number of retirees may find demand for services particularly high. For example, Forbes recently listed Colorado Springs as one of the best places to retire in the United States. With a potential influx of retirees to Colorado, coupled with the number of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease expected to triple by 2050, the demand for elder care services such as home health care may likewise rise in response.

A Rewarding Career Option

For nurses interested in stepping outside of a hospital or clinical role and instead working one-on-one with patients in a home environment, home health care can be an ideal career option. With millions of Baby Boomers reaching age 65 and beyond, the need for compassionate and skilled home health nurses may rise to historic levels as well.

Learn more about the Colorado Mesa University online RN to BSN program.


Forbes: The Best Places to Retire in 2016

Genworth: Compare Long Term Care Costs Across the United States

Population Reference Bureau: Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States

National Cancer Institute: NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms

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