How to Start Working in Home Health Care

How to Start Working in Home Health Care

There’s no better time to work in home health care. As the baby boomer generation ages and more people seek out home-based care as an alternative to nursing homes or hospitals, the demand for skilled home health professionals rises.

In addition to such a positive job outlook, home health nursing is also a highly rewarding career path for the right health care professional. Working in home health lets you work closely with your patients in their own homes where you can often better learn about and understand their needs. 

Home health workers also enjoy a unique level of autonomy and flexibility in their schedules in exchange for leaving behind the environment of a facility. If home health nursing sounds like the job for you, here’s what you need to know about how to start working in this field.

What is a Home Health Nurse?

Home health professionals provide nursing care for patients in the comfort of the patients’ own homes. As a home health professional, you’ll often work with older adults, but patients can be of any age. You provide the critical support necessary for patients to live as independently as possible and enjoy a higher quality of life.

Home health nursing involves a variety of health care professionals, and many have overlapping responsibilities. Thus the exact responsibilities and level of care available that you can expect will vary by job title and patient needs.

Certified Nursing Assistants and Home Health Aides

The entry-level position for home health care is as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or home health aide (HHA). Typical responsibilities for these roles include:

  • Assisting patients with activities of daily living: These may include personal care and hygiene, dressing and undressing, walking, and feeding. For patients with developmental disabilities, you may also provide behavior support and carry out existing or recommended behavioral plans.
  • Providing basic medical assistance: Certified nursing assistants provide basic medical care under the direction of a nurse or another medical professional. They may take vital signs and assist with mobility, help carry out prescribed medical plans or exercises, and report any concerns to the supervising nurse.
  • Housekeeping: Home health aides may assist in light housework, such as laundry, washing dishes, and vacuuming.
  • Organize patients’ schedules and plan appointments: This is especially important for patients with complex medical needs or cognitive impairments. Home health aides are often largely responsible for keeping track of medical appointments as well as other appointments or outings.
  • Arrange transportation to doctors’ offices or other outings: In addition to organizing their patients’ schedules, they may also coordinate transportation or other accommodations, so patients can arrive at appointments on time.
  • Grocery shop and meal prep: Patients may be unable to eat certain ingredients or food groups due to a medical condition. Those with feeding or swallowing disorders may need their food to be a certain texture in order to eat safely.
  • Keep patients engaged: Certified nursing assistants keep their patients engaged by taking them out into the community, helping them participate in preferred hobbies and activities, and providing general companionship.

Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses

The home health care team is made up of several other health care professionals with more advanced education and licensure. 

Licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), also known as licensed practical nurses (LPNs), can provide home-based nursing care under the direction of a registered nurse (RN) or another medical professional. In addition to basic medical assistance, LVNs can collect and present data to the supervising RN, as well as administer wound care and certain medications.

RNs working in a home health setting are responsible for more advanced care and typically oversee LVNs and nursing assistants. They develop care plans, monitor client progress, and administer any medication within their scope of practice.

How to Become a Home Health Care Professional

To work in home health nursing, you’ll need to meet the following requirements:

Education

Entry-level home health care professionals are CNAs and HHAs. The programs typically require a high school diploma, GED certificate, or equivalent. 

Home health LVNs and LPNs are required to complete a nursing program, typically through a vocational school or community college. It’s also becoming a fairly common requirement for RNs to have completed a bachelors’ degree in nursing.

Training

Home health nurses receive training in specialized housekeeping tasks, basic safety techniques (including how to respond in an emergency), personal hygiene, reading and recording vital signs, and basic nutrition. Training may happen on the job or through separate specialized programs. Additional training may also be required for state certification.

Licensure and Certification

All home health nurses must pass a qualifying examination to receive their certifications and licenses. They also need to have CPR certification. Additional requirements, such as formal training and background checks, vary by state. If you’re curious about exact requirements, contact your state’s health board for more information.

Qualities of a Good Home Health Nurse

Home health care can be a unique and challenging field, because you don’t have the usual support of an established facility and other coworkers in the same building. Because of that, there are many skills and qualities that make home health professionals successful at this type of work.

  • Attention to detail. Home health professionals must follow specific protocols, especially with respect to medical care, in order to best help patients. For example, missing out details or incorrectly charting details can have a negative impact on Medicare charting, and that can result in delayed or denied payments for necessary treatments.
  • Integrity. You must be trustworthy, reliable, and respectful of patients and their families. Health care in a patient’s home is a very personal task, and integrity is vital to the success of the relationship.
  • Interpersonal skills. While all nurses must demonstrate compassion and empathy, it’s especially important for home health nurses, who are strangers entering patients’ homes in vulnerable circumstances. You must be able to make your patients feel comfortable and be mindful of their emotions.
  • Stamina. From transfers to therapeutic exercises, home health care is an incredibly active job. Home health nurses should be comfortable and physically able to perform required tasks.

Home Health Care Job Outlook

Employment for home health aides is projected to increase by 36% by 2028, significantly faster than the national average across all other occupations. The demand for home health care continues to increase as the baby boomer generation ages, medical advances allow for longer life expectancy, and people increasingly turn to home health over nursing homes or medical settings.

The median salary for entry-level home health aides is approximately $24,000 per year, although annual pay increases with more advanced education and certification. LPNs/LVNs in-home health care services receive a median annual salary of about $48,000, while RNs earn $73,000 per year.

Becoming a home health nurse is a great career option for those that enjoy building a meaningful relationship with patients. If you are currently a home health aide or nurse and you would like to expand your experience to skilled nursing facilities or long-term care, apply today at Clipboard Health.

Michelle Paul

Michelle Paul is an RN Content Specialist at Clipboard Health. She has worked with a variety of patient demographics, ranging from young adults in foreign countries, to elderly residents in skilled nursing facilities, to healthy blood donors in her community. Her experience in content creation gives her a unique perspective on communication within the healthcare field.