How to Become a Home Health Nurse

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A home health nurse helps an older woman take her blood pressure.

 

One of the most important and gratifying aspects of nursing is the relationships nurses cultivate with their patients. In fast-paced medical environments such as hospitals, nurses can have difficulty connecting with their patients on a personal level. Nurse practitioners, who work as primary care providers, take care of about 24 patients each day, according to Barton Associates. By comparison, home health nurses visit only about five patients per day, and between 20 to 25 patients per week.

Home health nurses have the medical knowledge to take care of patients and the time to develop relationships with each of them. As specialized nurses, they also have the opportunity to establish trust with their patients, as they interact with them over time in the comfort of their own homes.

Home health nurses have a variety of duties and responsibilities when they make patient visits. Pursuing an education in the field is therefore essential for developing the necessary skills. A prospective nursing student considering this career and wondering how to become a home health nurse can earn an online Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.

What Does a Home Health Nurse Do?

The specific responsibilities of a home health nurse can vary according to the conditions of their patients. However, the overall job description of a home health nurse is to assess the needs of patients and record observations of their conditions during home visits. Most of the tasks nurses complete when visiting patients’ homes revolve around keeping patients comfortable while they are receiving care.

Home health nurses keep regular records of the conditions of their patients. They look for and document any changes in their patients’ symptoms or overall health. Taking their patients’ vital signs and helping administer medication that has been prescribed by doctors is another essential responsibility of home health nurses. Home health nurses also serve as the primary communicators between their patients’ doctors, physical therapists and occupational therapists.

Interacting with their patients’ family members can help home health nurses become a positive force in the homes they visit. Educating family members about how to care for their loved ones when the home health nurse is not present can also benefit the patients and help the families feel involved.

Steps to Becoming a Home Health Nurse

Those interested in how to become a home health nurse should know that two options are available. Nursing students can choose from these options based on their long-term nursing goals and how much time they are willing to invest in their education.

Becoming an LVN or LPN

In the first option, nursing students can earn their nursing diploma or certificate from a one- or two-year educational program. Courses are often offered at technical schools, junior colleges and even hospitals. After completing the necessary coursework in nursing, biology and pharmacology, nursing students can take the NCLEX-PN exam. After passing the exam, they become licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Nurses working as LVNs or LPNs can continue their education later by earning a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Becoming an RN

The second option for a nursing student is to bypass becoming an LVN or LPN and become a registered nurse (RN). Nursing students can enroll in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, which usually takes three to four years to complete. Nursing students complete coursework in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology and psychology, and gain experience through clinicals. After meeting their state’s requirements, nursing students can take the NCLEX-RN exam and become licensed as registered nurses. By earning a BSN degree, registered nurses can be more competitive in the field and are more likely to find jobs as home health nurses.

Home Health Nurse Salary and Career Outlook

The path a nursing student takes to become a home health nurse — LVN, LPN or RN — can affect their job opportunities as well as their annual earnings as a nurse.

LVN and LPN Salary

LPNs and LVNs working as home health nurses earned a median annual salary of $48,130 in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects the number of jobs for the two roles will grow by 9% between 2019 and 2029.

RN Salary

According to the BLS, registered nurses across the country earned a median annual salary of $73,300 in 2019. Salaries can vary across medical facilities and geographic locations. However, nurses can increase their earnings with experience and by pursuing advanced degrees. The number of jobs for RNs is projected to grow by 7% between 2019 and 2029.

Pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Nursing students can choose from different avenues when working toward becoming home health nurses. If you want to learn how to become a home health nurse and are interested in pursuing a degree in nursing, explore how the online Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program at Rider University can help you pursue your professional goals.

Recommended Readings

The Qualities of a Good Nurse in Action
Types of Nurses: Key Differences, Salaries and Education Requirements
Why Is Communication Important in Nursing?

Sources:

Barton Associates, “How Much Revenue Does a Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Generate?”
PayScale, Average Registered Nurse (RN) with Home Health/Home Care Skills Annual Salary
Travel Nursing, “Benefits of Being a Home Health Nurse”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses