Home Health Nursing


Home health nursing has a rich history that dates back to 1813 in Charleston, South Carolina.  The Ladies Benevolent Society of Charleston was founded by Sarah Russell and her family members to help and provide the sick with healthcare and food.  In 1877, the New York City Mission started sending trained nurses to people’s homes and the Visiting Nurses Association was born in 1890.  The basic home health nurse job description describes a nurse that provides a wide variety of nursing care to patients in the home environment.

They mainly work with the elderly, but there are home health nurses for pediatric patients and younger adults too.



Home Health Nurse Salary

The median annual home health nurse salary is $70,378.  The lowest 10 percent earn an average of $57,721 and the highest 10 percent earn an average of $85,826.

The home health nurse can earn a wide range of salaries based on several factors.  Geographic location and patient acuity both play major roles.  For example, a home health nurse in New York City caring for critically ill patients will earn more than a rural home health nurse assisting the elderly in taking medications and preparing meals.  Both are vital to society, but there are wide variations in salary.


Home Health Nurse Job Description

Home health nurses work in the homes of their patients to provide total care.  This kind of nurse can be hired through an agency or work through a major hospital network.  They will perform a wide variety of duties and these can include:

  • Helping patients with activities of daily living
  • Administering medications
  • Maintaining central lines
  • Educating patients
  • Taking patient vital signs
  • Performing therapeutic procedures
  • Conducting health screenings
  • Tracking patient progress
  • Observing and assessing patients
  • Inspecting medical equipment
  • Providing support to patients
  • Helping patient family members
  • Working with a total healthcare team to assist the patient

The delivery of home healthcare is very diverse.  Some nurses will specialize in a certain population, such as children or geriatrics, and some will take on a more broad and general caseload.  The patients you work with largely depends on your employer, your geographic location and your personal preferences.  You may also choose to focus on one heavy caseload patient each day instead of seeing multiple patients.


Home Health Nurse Education

Home health nurses can be either licensed practical nurses or registered nurses, but the trend seems to be favoring those who have a registered nursing license.  This degree can be obtained in two to four years, with an associate degree taking two years and a bachelor’s degree taking four years.  Once you complete an accredited undergraduate nursing degree program, you will need to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses to get your license.  You will take a variety of classes and need to complete a set amount of clinical hours to obtain your nursing degree.  How many clinical hours you need to complete will depend on the school that you choose to attend.  The following classes are commonly taken with undergraduate nursing degrees:

  • Pediatric nursing
  • Medical surgical nursing
  • Geriatric nursing
  • Obstetrical nursing
  • Psychiatric nursing
  • Acute care nursing
  • Nutrition
  • Nursing math
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Health assessment
  • Nursing fundamentals
  • Microbiology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Chemistry
  • Statistics


Home Health Nurse Certification and Licensing

You will need to get your registered nursing license by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses before you can enter the field as a home health nurse.  The Home Health Nursing Certification has been retired, but nurses who already possess this credential can continue to renew it.  Those renewing will not be able to do so with an examination, so it is critical that this is done with meeting the work and continuing education credit guidelines.  Those renewing their credential should ensure that they do so at least two months in advance to prevent a lapse.

Home health care nurses can also benefit from getting their Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certificate.  This is especially true for those who work with older patients and patients with significant cardiovascular disease.  This certificate is given by the American Heart Association and it is good for two years.  To obtain this certificate, you must complete a two-day course in which each day is approximately six hours long.  The class involves both lecture and hands-on training in advanced life support techniques.  Before your two years are up, you will need to take a single seven-hour course to renew your certification.


Home Health Nurse Job Outlook

There is a projected increase of 22 percent for home health nurses between 2008 and 2018.  More and more people are requiring skilled nursing care at home to help them in maintaining independence or to remove the burden from close family members.

The population in the United States is aging out of proportion due to the baby boomers and people are simply living longer today.  This will lead to 72 million people over age 65 in the next 25 years.  20 percent of the US population will be older adults by the year 2030.  Healthcare agencies are trying to get skilled nurses now that will be able to deal with the boom in patients that is projected to happen.



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