A home health nurse is a nurse practitioner or registered nurse who travels to patients' homes for the purpose of providing care. A home health nurse will sometimes visit a patient on a temporary basis, such as while he or she is recovering from surgery or an accident, or the nurse may be a permanent part of daily care, such as for patients living with severe illnesses or disabilities. Home health nurses also often provide palliative or hospice care for elderly patients or those suffering from terminal illnesses, such as cancer. This type of home care nurse might also supervise any other nurse's aides who are also working in the home.
Typically, only experienced nurses may become a home health nurse. This is because the job requires a great deal of specified knowledge, and the ability to make decisions independently, without constant oversight from a team of nurses or doctors. The nurse must also be very familiar with pharmacology and any prescription medications that the patient is taking, any special restrictions as specified by the doctor, or any other important information that may be relevant when providing care. A home health nurse must be extremely organized, self-motivated, and should enjoy working with people and their families.
It is very common practice for a home health nurse to specialize in a certain field of medicine, such as pediatric care, oncology, or orthopedic care, just to name a few. This specialized set of knowledge will be helpful and necessary when caring for patients with certain illnesses. Nurses who choose to specialize in a certain area will often choose to work with specific doctors for a long period of time. This is because it becomes easier over time to anticipate what the doctor will decide to do, and what his or her orders will be for patient care.
Some patients need round the clock care, so anyone who wants to become a home health nurse should be ready to work long hours at any time of day, any day of the week. There are many different tasks a home health nurse might perform while he or she is working these shifts. These might include things such as checking wounds for proper healing or administering medications, checking vital signs, and making assessments to prepare reports for the doctor. He or she might also assist the patient in performing daily tasks, such as bathing, although it is not the job of a nurse to clean a patient's home or cook meals for him or her.