Home health care involves everything from changing the dressing on wounds to checking vital signs such as blood pressure.
And with 75 percent of Americans over age 65 having multiple chronic health conditions such as diabetes or dementia, the need for home health care is enormous. Indeed, as insurance companies try to keep sick seniors out of hospitals and nursing homes when possible, according to CNBC, the job outlook for home health care nurses is expected to grow by 19 to 26 percent over the next 10 years, which is much faster than most professions.
Here are five things to know if you're considering a career as a home care nurse:
You'll probably need experience
Most home health care agencies require their nurses to have a BSN and a minimum of two years of experience as an RN in a medical-surgical setting, according to NursingCenter. This type of background usually ensures you have a broad range of assessment skills.
You'll have a longer list of essential items
Your list of must-have items often goes beyond what you might need if you were a nurse in a hospital or doctor's office. You'll need to be prepared for a variety of situations, which calls for an expanded list of essentials, noted nurse.org. A flashlight will help you work in homes with little or no light and you should also carry flea and wasp spray to avoid getting bitten. An extra pair or scrubs and shoes can also come in handy, in case you encounter less-than-clean situations or are around patients who smoke.
You'll get to see some of your patients on a regular basis
Hospital nurses may see many different patients, including some who are discharged relatively quickly, so you may not get to know each patient as well as you'd like to. In a home setting, you'll likely see some of your patients on an ongoing basis, making it easier to make a connection with them.
You'll have some independence
As a home care nurse, you won't have anyone looking over your shoulder. Instead of calling on a fellow nurse for help, you'll need to figure many things out for yourself. If you're a newer nurse, this can be a real challenge, but finding solutions on your own can be satisfying and exciting, home health nurse Laura Silverstein told Minority Nurse. Even eight years later, she still enjoys the autonomy her job provides.
You may have to improvise
You should have a variety of medical supplies in your car, but you won't be able to bring or anticipate everything you need. Perhaps you need to hang an IV after hours, but you discover that the pharmacy didn't send the IV pole. In a case like this, a home care nurse told allnurses, you'll have to get creative. You may find that putting the hanger over the door works well or that a broom handle strapped to an upright vacuum creates a wheeled IV pole! Of course, you'll have to make sure your modifications are safe and appropriate.