career of Home Health Nursing. With the baby boomer generation aging quickly, there will be an increased need for in home health care and home health nurses. This is a career with a future, since many aging and disabled patients want to remain in their own homes, rather than a nursing or retirement home, for as long as possible.
Home health nurses perform nursing functions inside the patient's home. They can be all the functions of a traditional nurse in a healthcare facility; they are simply performed on site, instead of in the hospital. One real element of the home health nurse is interacting with a variety of patients. They often see several patients each day, and they have to get from one patient's house quickly and effectively, so they need to be organized, efficient, and still compassionate and understanding with each patient. A Web site notes, "Rapport is evident in all nursing positions, but working in a patient's own living space needs a different level of skill and understanding" ("How to become," 2009). These nurses must interact with the family as well as the patient, so communication and empathy are key components of the job.
Specific duties include routine administration of injections, prescriptions, and other prescribed medications. They often help patients with health concerns, help them fill and renew subscriptions, and may even help them with basic issues like balancing a checkbook or getting meals delivered. There is also much paperwork, charting, and information involved, this can take several hours up in an eight-hour day. Nurses also discharge and admit new home health patients, evaluate and report their conditions, help with physical therapy and other issues, and listen to patients' health concerns ("Typical day," 2009). Not all of the patients are elderly, there are many other patients, such as quadriplegics, mentally challenged, those recovering from injuries or surgeries, and many others, to the issues and patients are as varied as they would be in a hospital setting. Two experienced nurses write, "During the last two decades, home health nursing practice has expanded beyond the traditional style of home care to include age-related groups (such as the elderly) and more acutely ill patients." (Korniewicz & El-Masri, 2004, p. 151). Home health nurses need to be ready for any and all healthcare situations, just as they would be in any other healthcare facility.
Education and certification is the same as it would be for any other nursing position. The length of time depends on the certification and type of degree the home health nurse chooses. Simple certification courses from community colleges can take only a few weeks or semesters. An AA degree traditionally takes two years, while a BS takes about four years. A master's program could take six years, and a doctoral program could take eight years. Traditionally, nurses have to update their certificates with continuing education periodically, so that time should also be considered in the overall time spent in education. There is also actual time spent training in health care facilities. Another nursing student notes, "We also work in clinics for our home health nursing and community nursing courses at a shelter for homeless people who are too sick to go out, but not sick enough to be in a hospital" (Sacks, 2003, p. 83). The cost of the education depends on the institution and the degree sought. Certifications might cost less than $1,000, while an eight-year education at a leading university could cost upwards of $100,000 to $200,000 or more.
There are over 30 online institutions offering nursing programs, with literally hundreds of schools across the country offering various nursing programs. Programs can start with a certification or AA degree in nursing from a local community college, all the way to master's degrees that make an RN with a bachelor's degree a MSN. There are also several certification programs in nursing specialties, such as Midwifery and Surgery. Nurses can earn a doctoral degree, as well. A Web site notes, "According to the United States Department of Labor, in 2004 there were 674 BSN nursing programs, 846 ADN programs. Also, in 2004, there were 417 master's degree programs, 93 doctoral programs, and 46 joint BSN-doctoral programs" ("How to become," 2009). Home health nurses would have to be certified, just…