In one year, more than 4.3 million patients receive home health care. That would be impossible without home health nurses’ hard work and dedication. Home health care nursing has been on the rise and is on the path for continued growth due to Medicare disbursements, population growth, an aging population.

If you are a home health nurse, you know the numerous benefits of working in this profession. These benefits include more flexibility and forming closer relationships with patients. This is great for home health nurses who treasure their relationships with their patients.

There are several skills and qualities that nurses can learn and hone in on to make them more successful home health nurses.

The Importance of Home Nursing

Today, some of the most impactful nursing is happening in home care. When the patient is discharged from an acute-care facility, most of the patient’s healing occurs in the home. It’s where home health nurses play the leading role to help patients stay healthy and out of acute care facilities and enjoy their best quality of life with independence, dignity and comfort.

Future proof your career in home health nursing

The current trends in insurance reimbursement, medicare, and the growth of an aging U.S. population point to the home as the new epicenter of health care delivery.

With advanced technologies now available, home care nurses can provide the same levels of high-quality, high-tech care they could give in a healthcare facility. As a result, in-home care is not only high-quality care, but it’s also less expensive, and it provides higher patient satisfaction.

This means that today and into the future, nurses will have more opportunities to work, advance their skills, and pursue leadership careers in-home care nursing than ever before.

How to become a home health nurse?

There are different levels of home care nursing, and the training required is also different for each. The first step to becoming a home health nurse is to decide if you want to become an RN (Registered Nurse), LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse or LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) or a CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant). All LVNs, LPNs, and nurse assistants work under the supervision of RNs and doctors.

How to become an RN?

To become an RN, you must complete an accredited nursing program. You can earn either an associate’s (ADN) or bachelor’s (BSN) degree to become an RN. In addition, to get their nursing license, all RNs are required to pass the NCLEX exam.

How to become an LPN?

To become an LPN, you must complete an accredited nursing program. Then, you must test for licensure.

How to become an LVN?

Only Texas and California use the LVN nurse designation. The training required to become an LVN is the same for an LPN. Both LVNs and LPNs play critical roles in-home health care.

How to become a CNA?

Although CNAs are unlicensed nurses, they are required to complete nurse training in many cases.

What does a home health nurse do?

Based on their licenses and training, home health nurses perform various tasks.

What does a home health RN do?

  • Taking vital signs
  • Perform physical assessments
  • Developing plan of care with doctors
  • Administer meds
  • Dressing changes
  • Wound care
  • Drawing labs (blood, urine samples)
  • Assisting with mobility

What does a home health LPN or LVN do?

  • Taking vital signs
  • Perform physical assessments
  • Administer meds
  • Dressing changes
  • Wound care
  • Reporting to RN about patient issues
  • Assisting with mobility

What does a home care CNA (nurse assistant) do?

  • Assisting with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as eating, bathing and mobility
  • Taking vital signs
  • Assisting with mobility

Here are the top skills and qualities for home health nurses:

Effective communication skills for home health nurses

Communication is a critical skill for working as a home health nurse. You need to listen to instructions from the doctor and anything the patient is telling you. For example, a patient might be telling you about how medication makes her feel, how symptoms are getting worse or better, or they may just want to confide in you about something personal.

How do home health nurses stay alert?

It is vital to remain attentive and alert while working in a home health environment. Your job is to help your patient feel comfortable and provide the care they need. In addition, you help your patients carry out day-to-day activities.

Distractions and their impact on patient safety

Do not get distracted by your phone. And stick to the patient care tasks at hand. High levels of distraction is a common cause of patient safety issues like falls and other accidents. In addition, it takes your full attention to care for your patients and administer the correct mediation.

Home health nursing and flexibility

One of the essential skills to have is flexibility. You need to remember that you do keep track of your patient’s health and their daily activities. This can include bathing, feeding, dressing clients, and helping with meal preparation, light housekeeping, and laundry. Always be flexible about tasks required to care for and comfort your patients.

Patience: A critical skill for home health nurses

Home health nurses must be patient. With patience, you can help your patients overcome anxiety. You may notice that some patients are more challenging than others, and you may feel overwhelmed, but you have to keep in mind that part of home health nursing is to care about the emotional well-being of your patients.

You might have a patient dealing with more emotional trauma or pain than another, resulting in a stressful situation. However, always try to remain patient with each patient and their unique needs.

Empathy and home health nursing

If you are ever unsure how to handle a situation, think about how you would feel if you were in your patient’s shoes. For example, is your patient having a more emotional day? Is she in more pain than usual or dealing with a personal issue?

Pain, life events, and other factors can cause patients to behave differently. For example, one day, they may be reticent and not want to talk, and instead of taking it personally, you should try to give them space and imagine how you would want to be treated if you were facing something challenging in your life.

How do home health nurses stay organized?

A home health nurse’s to-do list can change rapidly. Therefore organizational skills are crucial for a successful career in home health nursing. In addition, an organized nurse will function better in everyday patient care activities.

In addition, an organized home health care nurse can manage their time more effectively and know how to dedicate sufficient time to prepare for, conduct and follow up on patient care activities and events.

Highly organized home health nurses can easily access and analyze procedures designed to handle various home health issues when they arise. As a result, home health nurses with excellent organizational skills are more productive and provide high-quality patient care.

What technical skills do home health nurses need?

Technology plays a critical role in healthcare, and home health is no exception. Today’s hospital workforce consists of four unique generations: traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X, and generation Y, but as computer updates occur and new technology emerges, the baby boomer and generation X nurses continue to call on the expertise of the youngest generation.

Technology is coming to the bedside at a rapid pace. Health technology can do a lot to improve in-home patient care, and having technical skills leads to better and more efficient communication. Thus a home health nurse interacting with a patient can retrieve needed information and act on it quickly.

Professionalism in home health nursing

Professionalism in home health nursing is a vital skill because boundaries are not as clearly defined in homes as in other healthcare settings. Therefore, home care nurses must be trusted to act in their patients’ best interests and strictly maintain the standards of professional conduct while fostering friendly yet professional relationships.

Integrity and honesty in home health nursing

Every day, in-home health care settings across the United States, home health nurses are faced with a myriad of challenges. From how little time is allotted for in-home care, to excessive patient load, to frustrated family members and its effect on the overall patient care.

When you are faced with challenges as a home health nurse, you can rely on your integrity to help you stand tall.

Why is integrity important in-home health nursing?

Because the home care environment doesn’t provide the same level of managerial oversight as an institutional healthcare setting, integrity for home health nurses is particularly important. In a home where clinical management isn’t physically present, a home care nurse is trusted to always do the right thing with an unwavering moral and ethical compass.

Home health nurses generally work autonomously, using their nursing skills to care for and comfort their patients.

The integrity you exhibit gives your patients and their families a glimpse into the strength of your character and underscores the reasons you are an exemplary home health nurse.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4.5 million patients have received and ended home health care (2015).