How Do You Become a Home Health Nurse?

Taking the steps to become a home health nurse is an excellent alternative to working at the hospital bedside. Home health nurses are licensed RNs who provide quality patient treatment in the comfort of their own house. Some devote their practice to one patient long-term while others visit multiple patients throughout their day. Home health nurses handle many responsibilities, including giving medications, dressing wounds, monitoring vitals, assisting with hygiene, and lending emotional support. Demand in home healthcare is rapidly growing because hospital stays are shorter and aging baby boomers prefer staying home, according to the US News and World Report. It’s also more affordable costing an average of $1,200 a month rather than $12,000 at a nursing home. Add in the critical nursing shortage and this becomes a booming RN career. The following is a detailed guide for how you can become a home health nurse.

Attend Nursing School

Caring, compassionate individuals looking for RN positions in home health nursing must first receive apt training. Most states allow registered nurses to select from three education routes: a hospital-based diploma, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree. The AACN encourages young nurses to pursue the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) for the best clinical practice. It’s important to attend an accredited nursing school with approval from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). BSN students build on a general core with courses like chemistry, biology, nursing, and health science. In addition to simulation labs, your BSN will include at least two field practica, which you can specialize in home healthcare.

Gain Patient Experience

Upon graduation, you’ll need to fulfill your state’s licensing requirements. All states require you to take the NCLEX-RN exam granted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Taking an exam prep course could boost your chances of success. Once you pass, begin applying for entry-level registered nursing jobs. Home health nurses are given significant independence, so most agencies will require prior experience. You can test your clinical skills by first working in a hospital, urgent care center, nursing home, or physician office. After two to three years, you’ll know the fundamentals to segue into caring for individuals on the home front.

Pursue ANCC Certification

Earning certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is optional, yet recommended to prove your nursing abilities. The Home Health Nursing RN-BC credential is offered to nurses with valid RN licensing and at least an associate degree. Having at least 2,000 hours of experience in home health nursing is required. Testing sites throughout the U.S. will deliver the four-hour, multiple-choice certification exam. Certifications must be renewed every five years by taking continuing education hours. Although this credential makes the most sense, you could also become an RN-BC in Gerontological Nursing, Nursing Case Management, or Community Health Nursing. You should also join the Home Health Nurses Association (HHNA).

Related Resource: Nurse Case Manager

Overall, home health nurses perform self-directed care outside medical facilities to help patients recover from injury or cope with chronic conditions in their home. Home health nurses utilize their clinical judgment skills to develop and administer personalized patient plans to improve health and well-being. They’re rewarded with a median yearly salary of $74,174, or $36 per hour, according to Salary.com. Once you become a home health nurse, you could pursue further education to advance as a home health clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or home health agency administrator.