Tips for Home Health Nursing: Is it for You?

Home Health Nursing is a wonderful field to enter if you love autonomy, flexibility, and being mobile. This nursing position offers you the opportunity to be directly involved with scheduling your own workday. A love for driving is a plus especially if you enjoy being out and about while listening to your favorite radio station. In this area hands on nursing skills as well as good communication and organizational skills will be needed along with the ability to quickly develop rapport with patients.
As a home health nurse your day could involve opening cases, performing assessments, monitoring blood pressures or heart rates, drawing labs, inserting and irrigating Foley Catheters, starting IV's and performing infusion therapy, changing dressings and wound vacs. There are plenty of opportunities for patient education in this area. You might be asked to teach a newly diagnosed patient to self inject their insulin or change their colostomy bag. You may be challenged to care for a patient who does not speak your language. You might have to go into places you would rather not go. Any of these components could make up your day as a home health nurse.

Specific tips for working in this area are:

1. You must be able to find your patient. If you have no sense of direction you might consider purchasing a directional tool such as a GPS device. Another option would be having a laptop and utilizing MapQuest or RandMcNally. Not being able to find a patient will cost you both time and money.

2. Scheduling is crucial. You will be working around the patient's schedule. Call the client in advance. Do not just show up at the home. Work out a schedule that is mutually beneficial to both of you.

3. Be flexible. Things will happen to get you off your schedule. Delays will occur. Keep your patients informed when something happens and ask them if they would like to reschedule at that time. Give them the opportunity to decide how best to meet their needs when delays occurs. Be courteous of their time.

4. Be prepared to see all kinds of situations. You are coming into an invidivual's environment. Leave all preconceived notions of how things should be and accept that each person is different. You may be taking care of someone whose lifestyle does not agree with yours. Treat each person with respect and professionalism.

5. Be honest with your assessments. Some home health agencies would like you to falsify assessments to get the claim covered. Refuse to false document. If the agency expects you to then find another agency.

6.If you have a knowledge deficit on a particular skill make your employer aware. Don't pretend you have expertise in something you don't. Most agencies will help you learn how to perform skills you are lacking in. Continue to look for ways to increase your knowledge base such as research, attending educational seminars, continuing education, etc.

7. Be prepared. Keep your nursing bag neat and organized. Have everything at hand and ready to go with plenty of supplies available. There is nothing worse than getting to a patient's house and running out of something needed. It causes having to make an extra trip and the mileage probably won't be covered on the second one.

8. Learn to improvise. You are not in a hospital setting and equipment may be provided by different services. You might have to hang an IV by gravity if you have a pump that's giving you trouble. You might also have to get on the floor beside the patient's bed to change a dressing so have a plastic bag or something handy to kneel on.

9. Keep in mind that lab draws usually have a time limit on delivery. Plan your draws around a time you can get to the lab to meet those deadlines.

10. Time management is crucial. Learn to finalize your visit. You will never stay on schedule if you spend too much time visiting with each patient. Allow a certain amount of time at each visit and stick to it. Develop ways to let your patients know you are interested and there for them but when it's time to go it's time to go.

11. Be proactive on educating your patients. If you find an article that might interest your patient about their disease or care management share it with them.

12. Teach your patients to be their own advocate. Inform them of their rights as a patient. If they are not pleased with their care make them feel comfortable enough to complain about it. Let them know that their satisfaction is your goal and you are willing to help work out any problem.

13. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. You must stay up to date on the paperwork or you will be operating from a deficit. Keep up with your mileage at each location. Don't wait until the end of the day. Complete each piece of paperwork as you complete each visit. This simple technique allowed me to always be up to date which also kept my payroll current.

14. Have a good sense of humor. Things will not always go smoothly for you. The ability to laugh at yourself with help you ease tension when things are not going as planned.

Enjoy your new position as a home health nurse. You will appreciate many varied learning opportunities while caring for this very special population.

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