AMN Healthcare provided this article.
When you began your nursing career, you might have felt drawn to a particular specialty.
Maybe you were interested in caring for surgical patients, or you couldn’t resist the adrenaline rush you got from working in the emergency department.
But if you’ve acquired some experience and now relish the idea of getting away from the hospital and having more independence, then you might try home health nursing. Even if just for a few months as a home health travel nurse.
These assignments allow you to build relationships with patients as you care for them in their homes. Not only can you help them recover and heal, but you can plan for some travel adventures of your own.
The demand for home health nursing
The need for well-trained, compassionate professionals to provide short-term and long-term care for people in their homes is excellent—and it’s expected to grow. As Andrea Devoti, executive vice president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), puts it, “The home is going to be where it’s at.”
Some of the demand for home health nurses can be attributed to the aging of the population. As the U.S. Census Bureau predicted in 2018, “In less than two decades, the graying of America will be inescapable: Older adults are projected to outnumber kids for the first time in U.S. history.”
Sometimes, people must return home to recover from an illness, injury, or surgical procedure, as hospitals have shifted so much care outside the acute care setting. And some people prefer to recover or receive ongoing care in the comfort of their own homes.
“Especially after the pandemic, people want to be at home,” said Devoti. “They want to be with their stuff, and they want to be where they feel comfortable and with the people they love around them.”
Home health nurses facilitate that type of care. And if you’re an independent nurse with good critical thinking skills and the ability to be flexible, you could be one of them. “You also have to be someone who doesn’t mind working alone,” noted Devoti.
A unique privilege
One crucial point to remember is that a home is very different from a hospital, with its institutional rules and regulations. And you must be respectful of that.
“People primed to be a home health nurse need to understand that they are providing essential care and services in someone else’s home where they are a guest,” said Devoti. In other words, you can educate a patient about hygiene and other essential aspects of care, but you can’t tell them how to live in their own home.
However, the home setting gives you an advantage. Working as a home health nurse provides a unique insight into the life of your patients that you couldn’t get any other way. When you arrive at a patient’s home, you can see the state of their living situation and how that may affect their recovery process.
An article about home health nursing care in BMJ Safety and Quality noted, “Patient safety at home is as important as patient safety in hospitals. Unsafe conditions in the home can lead to unnecessary or avoidable hospitalizations.”
For example, you might notice that a patient seems to be hoarding items, creating a potentially dangerous situation in an emergency. You might notice that a patient is having trouble navigating the stairs or the bathroom in their home. Or you might notice that a patient doesn’t have much food in their home or that they’re having trouble taking care of wounds or personal needs.
All of those factors can affect how your patient is doing. Home health nurses will diligently notice and record that information and pass it along to the patient’s physician. They’ll also use it to shape the care they provide—hopefully contributing to better outcomes.
Earn a good living
If working in home health sounds interesting, you’ll be glad to know that you can make a solid living as a home health nurse, too.
In fact, the average salary for a registered nurse working in the home health arena is $92,401, according to Glass Door. You could earn even more depending on where you live and how many hours you work.
You can also earn a healthy paycheck as a home health travel nurse while enjoying free housing, travel reimbursements, and other benefits. A travel home health nursing gig allows you to explore a new city or area while using your nursing skills to care for patients who need you.