national
Skip to content Skip to Live Chat
Close Nav

Online Degrees

Part of Western Governors University

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? As a home health 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. While many in-home nurses are RNs, the job is also a great entry-level role. Working as a home health nurse is 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 nurse 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.

Being a Home Health Nurse: What to Know First

There's a lot you should know about being a home health nurse before you embark on the path to become one. Also known as home care nurse, in-home nurse, and home health care nurse, home health nurses care for individuals and families in their homes. Many times, the clients or patients of home health nurses are aging, severely handicapped, or immunocompromised. As a home health nurse, you must be exceptionally patient, kind, and careful as you're providing care to these individuals. To be a home health nurse, you must have at least an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). That said, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is preferable.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Home Health Nurse?

As a home health 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.

Home health nurses can be registered nurses (RNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), or nurse assistants. Here are the general responsibilities of a home health nurse:

  • Evaluating and treating patients. Homebound patients must be assessed daily as they often have chronic or serious conditions that require constant monitoring. Home health nurses should be able to quickly evaluate patients and assess which type of care needs to be given in order to keep the patient comfortable and as healthy as possible.
  • Providing postoperative care. Many patients return home to recover after surgery. Home health nurses provide care to these patients in the comfort of their homes. Postoperative care might involve administering painkillers, redressing wounds, sponge bathing, and ensuring proper hydration.
  • Monitoring stress-test evaluations. Patients must work to build or regain their strength, particularly if they are homebound and have a goal to progress. Stress tests often involve monitoring a patient's blood pressure and breathing while they ride a stationary bike or walk on a treadmill.
  • Monitoring tests and readings. Taking a patient's blood pressure is one of the most common at-home tests. Occasionally urine tests may also be necessary. Depending on the patient's condition, there are a number of cognitive tests that might be carried out. In general, the tests are aimed at ensuring the patient is healing from or coping with their specific condition.
  • Educating patients and their families. Keeping families informed and helping them know how best to care for their loved one is critical. Home health nurses have a responsibility to help families feel comfortable in this area. They should be aware of any specific areas of concern and have a good idea of how to keep their family member comfortable while helping them heal.
  • Supporting and motivating patients' lifestyle changes. Many times, a patient must make considerable lifestyle changes in order to cope with their new condition. Perhaps they can no longer walk but still want to get outside and ride in their wheelchair. Maybe they must be extra careful about their diet and can no longer eat the number of salty snacks they once enjoyed. Support them, encourage them, and help them to live their new life.

What Are the Advantages of Becoming a Home Health Nurse?

Nursing is a fulfilling career in general, but being a home health nurse has some unique advantages. Here are the benefits of becoming a home health nurse:

  • Focusing on healthcare in the home often leads to building stronger relationships with patients. These relationships can be very fulfilling.
  • Working in a home setting means you're typically caring for individuals who can't leave their homes. As a home health nurse, you feel you can truly make a difference by bringing life-changing care to homebound patients.
  • Starting as a home health nurse gives you a great opportunity to earn a graduate degree on your time, grow in your career, and become a nurse leader.
  • Providing care for individuals at home fills a general need for nurses, particularly those who work in the home. As a home health nurse, you'll find fulfillment knowing the type of personalized care you provide is invaluable.

 

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 one.

  1. Earn a BSN or ADN. Associate and bachelor's degree programs in nursing teach students the necessary skills to become effective home health nurses. 
  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN to receive RN licensure. This exam evaluates nursing knowledge and skills. It's a requirement for RN nurses in every state.
  3. Gain nursing experience. There are many entry-level nursing roles that allow you to gain experience. Many nurses become certified nursing assistants (CNAs) to prepare to earn a full nursing degree and specialize as home health nurses. 
  4. Get certified. There are a number of specialties within nursing. For instance, you might opt to specialize in gerontology, pediatrics, or hospice care. Decide which area of nursing interests you most and gain the necessary certifications.

Why Choose WGU?

WGU allows you the flexibility to earn your degree on your own time. Our unique format lets you pass assessments to accelerate through concepts you already know. You'll be assigned a personal Program Mentor to guide you every step of the way. Take tests when you want, set your own schedule, and earn your degree as quickly as you can master the material. Check out our unique nursing programs.

Earning a BSN will give you a great start. For those who are seeking to advance their nursing career further, an MSN degree is a good option. Whatever your goals within the field of nursing, at WGU we're here to help.

 

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 (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 (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 – 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

Nursing Leadership and Management – Post-Master's Certificate

A certificate for registered nurses with a master's degree in...

A certificate for registered nurses with a...

A certificate for registered nurses with a master's degree in nursing who are ready for greater responsibility in a leadership and management role.

  • Time: 12 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,385 per 6-month term, plus a one-time Health Professions Fee of $350. The cost to sit for the NAHQ Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) exam is included in tuition.

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.


Next Start Date

Start the 1st of any month—as soon as you complete enrollment!

Apply Today

Our Online University Degree Programs Start on the First of Every Month, All Year Long

No need to wait for spring or fall semester. It's back-to-school time at WGU year-round. Get started by talking to an Enrollment Counselor today, and you'll be on your way to realizing your dream of a bachelor's or master's degree—sooner than you might think!

Learn about Online College Admissions at WGU


A nurse helps an elderly woman stand from a chair.

What Skills Are Needed to Become a Home Health Nurse?

Because providing home care can be unpredictable, a successful home health 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 health 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:

  • Patient care. Home health nurses must be skilled at working one-on-one with individual patients. Providing personalized patient care should be their top priority and skill they've honed. 
  • Catheterization. Many homebound patients use a catheter. It's important that home health nurses are well acquainted with the proper techniques for catheterization to ensure their patients remain comfortable and get the best care.
  • Defibrillation. If a home health patient goes into cardiac arrest, the home health nurse must be ready to provide defibrillation. Knowing how to use a defibrillator is critical as it could save a patient's life should their heart stop beating.
  • Communication. A home health nurse must be skilled in both verbal and written communication. They should be able to communicate well with individuals who have hearing or mental impairments, and they should take extra care to be specific in their instructions to family members and caregivers.
  • Critical thinking. Making decisions quickly and being able to change directions and switch plans is key. Emergencies may arise frequently, so knowing the correct protocol and remaining calm is important. Being a skilled and calm critical thinker is a crucial skill as a home health nurse.
  • Condition-specific treatment abilities. Home health nurses treat patients with many different conditions. They should know how to treat patients dealing with conditions ranging from diabetes to dementia, cerebral palsy to cystic fibrosis, and so many more.

Frequently Asked Questions about Home Health Nurses

What is a home health nurse?

A home health nurse is a nurse that works with patients in their homes. These specialized nurses may perform hospice care, rehabilitation, occupational therapy, or general check-ups. Home health nurses must have a diverse skill set and great communication skills.

How much do nurses make?

According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a registered nurse is $70,335. The top 2% make more than $106,500 per year. Hourly rates average between $34 and $51 per hour.

What education is required to become a nurse?

To become a nurse, you must complete at least an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN).  Many nurses go straight for their BSN. Nurses wishing to expand their career opportunities opt to go on and earn an MSN after completing a BSN degree. 

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.

View Degree Programs