If you’re looking for a nursing specialty outside of traditional healthcare environments, becoming a Home Health Nurse could be the right career choice for you.
These types of nurses provide care to patients in patients’ homes. Additionally, they provide care with very little supervision, allowing them a great level of autonomy and independence.
However, there’s a lot to consider before pursuing a career as a Home Health Nurse. What exactly do they do? How much do they make? How do you become one?
In this article, we’ll answer all these questions and cover everything you need to know about Home Health Nursing to help you decide if this nursing specialty may be a good fit for you.
Table of Contents
- What Is A Home Health Nurse?
- Types of Home Health Nurses
- What Are A Home Health Nurse’s Responsibilities?
- What Skills Does A Home Health Nurse Need?
- How To Become A Home Health Nurse
- Home Health Nurse Certification
- Home Health Nurse Salary
- Home Health Nurse Career Outlook
- Is Home Health Nursing Stressful?
- Should You Become A Home Health Nurse?
- Home Health Nurse FAQs
What Is A Home Health Nurse?
Home Health Nurses provide direct, one-on-one care to patients in their homes. Unlike most nurses, they work outside of traditional healthcare facilities like hospitals. However, home health nurses do often report to a healthcare facility to receive their daily assignments.
They typically provide care to:
- Elderly patients
- Critically ill patients
- Disabled patients
- Patients recovering from surgery and injury
- Pregnant women who need assistance
- New mothers
One of the best benefits of pursuing this nursing speciality is that it offers a lot of flexibility and autonomy. Often, Home Health Nurses are able to set their own schedule and choose how many patients they’d like to take on.
Another potential advantage of becoming this type of nurse is that you have the opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with your patients, as you’ll spend a lot of one-on-one time with them in a more personal setting.
Finally, this nursing role is open to nurses with varying levels of training and educational qualifications, which we discuss in more detail below.
Types of Home Health Nurses
There are three different types of Home Health Nurses. The type of Home Health Nurse you can become depends upon your level of nursing education and credentials.
The responsibilities differ for each type, and we discuss them below. However, keep in mind that most home healthcare agencies prefer to hire Registered Nurses, because RNs have the highest level of training and education of the three.
1. Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA)
The lowest-level type of Home Health Nurse is a Certified Nursing Assistant, or CNA. Since CNAs require the least amount of education and training of the three types of Home Health Nurses, they have the most limited autonomy and duties. These responsibilities typically include:
- Communicating patient concerns to a supervising LPN or RN
- Assisting patients with mobility and the everyday tasks necessary to care for oneself
- Completing a list of specific tasks dictated by a supervisor
While this is the most limited Home Health Nurse role, the good news is that you can become a CNA via a training program which can typically be completed in less than 15 weeks. From there, you’ll need to pass a certification exam.
While you’ll probably need to gain some traditional CNA experience before working in-home, this is the quickest route to providing care to patients.
Finally, it’s worth noting that a Certified Nursing Assistant is not the same as a Home Health Aide (HHA). The three biggest differences between the two roles are:
- A CNA can perform all the duties of an HHA in addition to medically-oriented tasks, which HHA’s are not permitted to perform
- A CNA requires certification and a license to perform their duties, whereas an HHA does not need any state-issued license of certification
- A CNA typically earns a higher salary than an HHA
2. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
The mid-tier type of Home Health Nurse is the Licensed Practical Nurse, or LPN. LPNs can perform all the duties of a CNA in addition to:
- Assigning task-based care to CNAs
- Administering medication
- Taking vital signs
- Managing wounds
While becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse requires a higher level of education and training than a CNA, it is a quicker option when compared to becoming a Registered Nurse. In fact, an LPN program can be completed in as little as a year. Once you complete the program, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX-PN and gain some experience in a healthcare facility before working in-home.
Unlike CNAs, LPNs can perform more advanced duties with more autonomy. Additionally, they earn a higher salary than CNAs because of their ability to complete more complex tasks and take on more responsibilities.
If you choose the LPN pathway, don’t forget that you can always advance your career by enrolling in an LPN to RN program down the road, which will allow you to take on more duties and earn a higher salary.
3. Registered Nurse (RN)
Finally, the highest-level type of Home Health Nurse is the Registered Nurse. RNs can carry out all the responsibilities of CNAs and LPNs in addition to:
- Developing patient care plans with physicians
- Coordinating care between patients, families, and other members of the healthcare team
- Evaluating patients’ progress and responses to treatments
Becoming a Registered Nurse requires, at minimum, the successful completion of an Associate Degree in Nursing program, which can be completed in as little as two years.
However, many aspiring RNs opt to earn their Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree, which provides graduates with more in-depth education and training. Home Healthcare agencies typically prefer BSN nurses because of their more advanced knowledge and skillset, which allows them to work more autonomously and deliver more complex care.
A BSN program can typically be completed in as little as four years. However, if you do opt to earn your ADN instead, you can always choose to enroll in an RN to BSN program down the road, which allows you to earn your Bachelor’s degree in as little as a year. You can also enroll in flexible online BSN programs.
After earning your ADN or BSN, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX-RN to become a licensed Registered Nurse. From there, you’ll want to gain some experience in a traditional healthcare setting before looking for employment as a Home Health Nurse.
To become the most desirable candidate possible for Home Health Nursing positions, we recommend you go straight for your BSN and become an RN. They perform the most complex duties of the three types of Home Health Nurses, and they also earn the highest salary.
What Are A Home Health Nurse’s Responsibilities?
Above, we broke down some of the specific responsibilities for each type of Home Health Nurse. However, here is a high-level overview of Home Health Nurse responsibilities:
- Traveling to patients’ homes to deliver care based on specific treatment plans
- Educating patients and their families
- Monitoring patient symptoms to provide medical intervention before a hospital visit becomes necessary
- Administering medication
- Assisting patients with everyday activities, like grooming and hygiene
- Monitoring wounds and conditions
- Documenting vital signs
- Collaborating with physicians to development treatment plans
- Performing physical assessments
It’s important to note that the typical workday for a Home Health Nurse can vary a lot from day to day. In general, however, you’ll be delivering care in a manner similar to how you would in a traditional healthcare facility, only you’ll be doing so in patients’ homes.
What Skills Does A Home Health Nurse Need?
Since Home Health Nurses work in a different environment than most other types of nurses, they require a unique skillset. We discuss some of these essential skills below.
1. Time Management Skills
One critical skill that Home Health Nurses require is time management. Since Home Health Nurses work in patients’ homes without the supervision of other members of the healthcare team, they need to be good at managing their time.
Additionally, most Home Health Care Nurses need to visit multiple patients in a single day. In order to get to every patients’ home, these nurses need to be quick and efficient at completing their required tasks.
Finally, one more reason time management skills are key is that patients will be expecting their nurse to arrive at their home within a specific time frame. To ensure every patient receives their care around the time they expect, completing tasks in an appropriate amount of time is critical to being good at the job.
2. Communication Skills
Another important skill all Home Health Nurses should have is good communication. These nurses not only need to be able to communicate information clearly to patients, but also other care providers.
For example, Home Health Nurses need to communicate with patients, build rapport with them, and earn their trust. They also may need to articulate important information to patients’ families to ensure family members can safely look after patients when the nurse isn’t around.
These nurses also need to tell physicians and other workers involved in developing and delivering care plans about any concerns the patient may have. Additionally, since these nurses are responsible for monitoring the conditions of patients, they need to be able to effectively communicate changes in patients’ conditions to other healthcare team members.
As we mentioned above, Home Health Nurses work in patients’ homes with a great level of autonomy. This means it’s critical that these nurses are able to work independently.
While many Home Health Nurses arrive at patients’ homes with a set list of tasks to complete, they may also need to be able to fulfill unexpected patient needs when they come up. Since there’s nobody else there to supervise, these nurses need to have a good understanding of how to provide care on their own.
If you’re not comfortable working without supervision or another healthcare team member to back you up, Home Health Nursing may not be the best career path for you.
4. Interpersonal Skills
One more critical skill Home Health Nurses need is interpersonal skills. While most traditional nurses work alongside other healthcare team members and constantly bounce from patient to patient, this type of nursing mostly consists of one-on-one care.
Not only do these nurses work one-on-one with patients, but spending an hour or more with a patient at a time is the norm. This means they need to be good at developing rapport and trust with patients.
Home Health Nurses also frequently interact with patients’ families during home visits. This means they also need to be adept at talking with, answering the questions of, and getting to know families.
Finally, it’s important to note that your interactions with patients and families will be in a more relaxed and personal environment, so developing real connections with them is very important. After all, you’ll be visiting their personal spaces where they spend the majority of their time.
If you consider yourself a “people person” and enjoy getting to know others, Home Health Nursing could be the right nursing speciality for you.
How To Become A Home Health Nurse
As we mentioned above, there are three different routes you can take to become a Home Health Nurse.
The most basic type of Home Health Nurse is a Certified Nurse Assistant, or CNA. This pathway requires that you complete a CNA training program and earn certification. Training programs can typically be completed in just a few weeks, and this the quickest way to work as a Home Health Nurse.
The mid-level type of Home Health Nurse is a Licensed Practical Nurse, or LPN. This route requires that you complete an LPN education program at a community college, which can usually be completed in as little as a year. From there, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX-PN to become licensed and begin working.
The final type of Home Health Nurse is a Registered Nurse, or RN. This pathway can be carried out in one of two ways.
First, you can earn your Associate Degree in Nursing, which typically takes about two years.
Second, and the track we recommend, you can earn your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree, which typically takes about four years. The BSN provides you with more advanced training and education, which Home Healthcare agencies prefer when assessing candidates.
Whether you get your ADN or BSN, you’ll then need to pass the NCLEX-RN to become a licensed Registered Nurse. From there, you’ll probably want to get some experience in a traditional healthcare setting, preferably a critical care environment, to make yourself the most attractive candidate possible.
Home Health Nurse Certification
While the American Nurses Credentialing Center does list a Home Health Nursing Certification on their website, it is currently available by renewal only. This means you cannot obtain the certification if you don’t already hold it.
However, there are other certifications you can obtain that may help you stand out as a candidate when applying to Home Health Nursing roles.
For example, if you hope to work with elderly patients, you may consider going for your Gerontological Nurse Certification. Additionally, a Pain Management Nursing Certification could help you stand out if you want to work with patients recovering from injury or illness. The right certification for you depends on the type of care you’re interested in delivering.
Remember, these certifications are not a prerequisite for working as a Home Health Nurse, but they do add a layer of professionalism to your nursing practice. The best decision will differ based on every nurse’s unique interests and goals.
Home Health Nurse Salary
While there is no nursing salary data specific to Home Health Certified Nursing Assistants available, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual salary for all types of CNAs is $30,290 per year. However, the average Home Health CNA salary is likely higher than this figure given that Home Health is a more specific CNA speciality.
Fortunately, Salary.com provides salary data regarding Home Health Licensed Practical Nurses. According to their data, the average annual Home Health LPN salary is $54,183 per year. Note that this is significantly higher than the figure for all types of LPNs listed by BLS, which sits at $48,070 per year.
Finally, Salary.com also provides salary data regarding Home Health Registered Nurses. According to their data, the average annual Home Health RN salary is $82,200 per year. Like the LPN salary listed above, this figure is also significantly higher than the average annual salary for all types of RNs, which BLS lists as $77,600 per year.
As you can see, both Home Health LPNs and RNs earn a higher salary than general LPNs and RNs. Because Home Health Nurses provide specialty care, they’re able to make more money than their more generalist counterparts.
Home Health Registered Nurse Salary By State
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Home Health Licensed Practical Nurse Salary By State
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Home Health Nurse Career Outlook
While the demand for Registered Nurses and other types of healthcare providers is expected to grow in the coming years, the job outlook for Home Health Nurses looks especially promising.
In fact, according to Business Insider:
“The US home healthcare market is projected to grow about 7% annually from $103 billion in 2018 to $173 billion by 2026 — outpacing growth in all other care types, including hospital care (+5.3% annually) and physician services (+5.6% annually).”
The growth in this particular sector of healthcare is largely being driven by the increasing senior population, as well as the expansion of telehealth services. So, if you’re looking for a nursing role with fantastic job stability and future market demand, Home Health Nursing makes a great option.
Is Home Health Nursing Stressful?
While Home Health Nursing can certainly be stressful, some nurses may find it less stressful than the typical hospital environment.
Unlike the traditional hospital environment where nurses may have to provide care to various patients and constantly bounce around, Home Health Nurses visit one patient at a time in patients’ homes. Better yet, these patients are usually in pretty stable condition.
However, Home Care Nursing does come with additional stresses that other types of nurses don’t have to deal with. For example, driving from home to home could be particularly stressful if you don’t enjoy driving or commuting to multiple places in a single day.
Additionally, while many Home Care Nurses enjoy working with a great level of autonomy and independence, not having other healthcare staff around to back you up could add another level of stress to the job. Patients and their families will likely have a lot of questions and concerns, and they will rely on you to address them.
Like most nursing positions, you’ll definitely have to deal with stress. However, how stressful you find this particular specialty will depend on your own interests, personality, and skillset.
Should You Become A Home Health Nurse?
While Home Health Nursing comes with its unique challenges that many traditional nurses don’t have to deal with, becoming a Home Health Nurse can certainly make a good career choice depending on your interests.
If you enjoy working with a great level of independence, providing one-on-one care to patients, and traveling from home to home, you should definitely consider a career as a Home Health Nurse.
Additionally, the position allows you to earn a higher salary than traditional nurses, and, depending on your interests and personality, you may find it less stressful than working in your typical healthcare environment.
To really make the most of your career as a Home Health Nurse, we recommend earning your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing and becoming an RN, which allows you to carry out the most advanced duties and earn the highest nursing salary possible.
To find a BSN program and jumpstart or advance your career as a Home Health Nurse, click here!
Home Health Nurse FAQs
The following are frequently asked questions regarding Home Health Nurses.
Where Do Home Health Nurses Work?
Home Health Nurses mostly work in patients’ homes. However, it’s worth noting that some nurses have a central office where they keep patient records and perform administrative tasks. They also often report to a healthcare facility to receive their assignments.
Do Home Health Nurses Live With Patients?
No. While Home Health Nurses provide care for patients in patients’ homes, they do not live with them. Once they complete their duties, they leave the patients’ home and only return when they are scheduled to.
How Long Is A Home Health Care Visit?
Most Home Health Care visits last no longer than one hour. While some visits can take longer, Home Health Nurses will not typically provide care for more than eight hours in a single day.
What Degree Do Home Health Nurses Need?
While both Certified Nurse Assistants and Licensed Practical Nurses can work as Home Health Nurses with certification from an accredited training program, their duties are limited.
Meanwhile, Registered Nurses have a wider scope of practice, and becoming an RN requires that you obtain either your ADN or BSN degree.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Home Health Nurse?
The amount of time it takes to become a Home Health Nurse depends on what type you become.
For example, you can become a Certified Nurse Assistant in just a few months, a Licensed Practical Nurse in about a year, or a Registered Nurse in two to four years.
Keep in mind, however, that you’ll likely need to gain at least a year of experience in a more traditional healthcare environment before working in Home Healthcare due to the added level of autonomy and independence involved in providing care in patients’ homes.