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Home Health Nurse Career

How to Become a Home Health Nurse

Would you like to make a life-changing impact on people from all walks of life, both young and old? As a home health care nurse, you’ll work one-on-one with your patients in the comfort of their homes. This allows you to develop deeper relationships and work in a more personal setting than a medical office or hospital.

Other perks of being a home nurse include having more independence and autonomy than in traditional nursing roles, with the flexibility to pick your own schedule. And while many in-home nurses are RNs, the job is also a great entry-level role—perfect if you’re a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) or registered nurse looking to gain more experience and potentially earn your bachelor's degree in nursing.

So what does a home health nurse do? And what steps are needed to become one? Read this helpful guide for a complete home health RN job description, including its roles and responsibilities, education requirements, and current salary range.

Health visitor and a senior woman during home visit.

What Is a Home Health Nurse?

A home health nurse is a nurse who works with individuals who need long-term care at home, providing regular care to keep patients healthy and progressing. Home health nurses work with a variety of different people, but most often they may work with the elderly or those with physical or mental limitations that make it difficult for them to leave their homes. A home health nurse travels to patients’ homes and may provide care ranging from measuring vital signs to changing wound dressings and encouraging physical or occupational therapy.

What Does a Home Health Nurse Do?

As a home health care nurse, you’ll provide one-on-one care for patients in their homes. These patients can be elderly, critically ill, or disabled, or they may be recovering from a surgery, injury, or accident. In-home nurses can also assist pregnant women and new mothers with ongoing care, support, and education.

There are three tiers of home health care nurses, which are based upon one’s credentials and experience—RNs, LVNs, and nurse assistants. Each usually reports to a facility to receive their daily assignment and then drives to their patients’ homes to provide prescribed nursing care.

Here is a list of the typical duties and responsibilities for home care nurses in a variety of healthcare settings:

Registered nurses

  • Assess patient needs and develop care plans with a physician
  • Coordinate and oversee a care plan with the patient, family, and support staff—LVNs and nurse assistants
  • Monitor and evaluate patient response to treatment, medication, and healing or mobilization progress
  • Oversee case management
  • Assist with activities of daily living (ADLs)—mobility, bathing, grooming, toileting, etc.
  • Administer medication and intravenous infusions
  • Take vital signs, draws labs, and manage wound care
  • Tend to wounds and other needs of home health patients
  • Work with clinical healthcare professionals to coordinate home care
  • Perform physical assessments
LVN wrapping a wrist

Licensed vocational nurses

  • Direct nurse assistants and task-based nursing care
  • Monitor patients and report status or patient concerns to supervising RN
  • Assist with ADLs and mobility
  • Administer medication and intravenous infusions
  • take vital signs and manage wounds

Nurse assistants

  • Report patient concerns to supervising LVN or RN
  • Assist with ADLs and mobility
  • Perform task-based nursing care
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How Do I Become a Home Health Nurse?

There are many education, certification, and experience requirements to become a home health nurse. Here are the necessary steps to become a home health nurse.

Complete the education requirements

Your first step towards a career in home health care nursing is to meet its educational requirements. Of course, they vary depending on what position you’re targeting.

  • LVNs need only a diploma or certificate from an accredited, state-approved program. These programs are offered by technical schools and community colleges and often take one year to complete. To work as an in-home LVN, you must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN).
  • For better opportunities and more responsibility, you can work towards becoming an RN home health nurse. This requires a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN), a diploma from an approved nursing program, or a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN)—which you can now earn online.
  • While a BSN isn’t required, it can help you be more competitive in the job market, increase your salary, and prepare you to move into a leadership role. RN-to-BSN programs are designed to help registered nurses earn their bachelor’s degrees quickly—allowing them to apply skills and knowledge that they’ve already learned on the job.
  • Some RNs continue to earn their master’s degree in nursing (MSN) so they can become a clinical nurse specialist or advanced practice nurse (APRN) in a home health care setting. An MSN can also enable you to work in specialty tracks such as mental or community health and acute care.

Gain the necessary work experience for senior positions

  • Since being a home care nurse can start as an entry-level role, you don’t need a lot of work experience to get a job, as long as you have the proper education and credentials. However, to get more senior RN home health care positions, you should have several years of on-the-job experience. This will also help you get better assignments and a more flexible work schedule.

 

What Degrees are Best for a Home Health Nurse?

Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a baccalaureate-prepared nurse:

  • Locations: offered in FL, IN, TX, MO, and UT only.
  • Tuition and fees: $6,575 per 6-month term.

WGU offers the prelicensure program in areas where we have partnerships with healthcare employers to provide practice sites and clinical coaches to help teach you and inspire you on your path to becoming a nurse.

If you don't live in one of our prelicensure states or don't qualify to apply, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also working directly with patients who need help.

Nursing – Leadership and Management (RN-to-MSN) – M.S.

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a...

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and...

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a substantial leap toward becoming a nurse leader.

  • Time: 75% of RN-to-MSN grads finish within 42 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,795 per 6-month term during undergraduate portion, $4,385 per 6-month term during graduate portion, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

If you're driven to lead, this online nursing degree will provide you everything needed to make that career a reality.

Compare degrees
This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees by clicking the button below.

Compare Similar Degrees

Nursing (RN-to-BSN Online) – B.S.

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking...

An online BSN degree program for registered...

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added theoretical depth, employability, and respect that a bachelor's degree brings:

  • Time: 66% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition and Fees: $3,795 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
  • Transfers: On average, students transfer 81 credits.

With over 35,000 BSN alumni, this is one of WGU's most popular online degree programs. View our RN to BSN degree guide.

If you don't currently have an RN and don't qualify for your nursing prelicensure program, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry in a unique way.

Nursing – Leadership and Management (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S.

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for greater responsibility:

  • Time: 82% of grads finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,385 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

Sample careers and jobs this degree program will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of medical and health services managers to grow 17% by 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Compare degrees

This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees by clicking the button below.

Compare Similar Degrees

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A nurse helps an elderly woman stand from a chair.

What Skills Does a Home Health Nurse Need?

Because doing home care can be unpredictable, a successful home health care nurse should have a positive attitude and be lighthearted. And since they often work alone, they should be excellent problem-solvers that work well independently. Home care nurses are responsible for many aspects of a patient's life, so they need to be ready to take on that challenge. Some important skills for home health nursing include:

  • Integrity. Clients and their families rely on you to provide safe and effective care. Thus, you need to be dependable and trustworthy and act with integrity—especially when handling personal activities such as helping your client bathe. Cancer care nurses are often directly involved with the patient and their families on a regular basis, so building a friendly relationship with them is key.
  • Physical stamina. You’ll need both mental and physical strength to work as a home health nurse. You may regularly perform physical tasks such as lifting or turning clients.
  • Interpersonal skills. Your clients may often be in extreme pain or distress, so you must be compassionate and keenly sensitive to their emotions. You should also enjoy helping others and developing close relationships through excellent verbal and interpersonal communication skills.
  • Being detail-oriented. As a home nurse, you’ll need to adhere to set protocols and rules—and also carefully follow patient care instructions while monitoring their condition. Being organized and detail-oriented are essential skills that can significantly impact a patient’s well-being.

How Much Does a Home Health Nurse Make?

$68,000

According to ZipRecruiter, the national average annual salary for home health nurses in 2021 is $68,885, with the top three percent making more than $112,000. Pay can vary depending on the state and level of education and experience. 

What Is the Projected Job Growth?

33%

According to the BLS, the demand for home health and personal care aides is projected to grow by an astounding 33% from 2020 to 2030. This number will likely be similar for home health nurses. As the population ages, the need for home health will continue to grow. 

Where Do Home Health Nurses Work?

Varies

There are numerous agencies that employ home nurses including home health and hospice agencies, hospital systems, medical centers, government organizations, and retirement communities.

Interested in Becoming a Home Health Nurse?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.

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