Nurses provide medical care in a wide range of settings, from emergency rooms to private clinics. In recent years, home care nursing has become particularly popular as more and more individuals choose to age in place or recover from surgery within the comfort of their own homes.
As with any healthcare space, there are both advantages and disadvantages of home health nursing. While the challenges nurses face in home health care differ from those experienced in skilled nursing facilities, the career is no less rewarding. In fact, many nurses enjoy flexing their skills in this unique environment to help patients live their lives to the fullest extent possible.
What Are the Benefits of Home-Based Care?
Millions of patients turn to home health care each year, ready to reap the benefits of this multifaceted healthcare service. For these patients, receiving care at home allows them to:
Maintain Their Privacy
Nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) can be crowded and, in some cases, patients may be asked to share a room with other residents. Receiving care in their own homes allows patients to move about as desired and continue their daily routines.
Minimize Stress Levels
Nursing homes and SNFs are often teeming with activity, making it difficult for many patients to rest and relax. For some, the stress of these environments can exacerbate their existing mental and physical conditions and take a serious toll on their overall health and well-being.
Reduce Their Rate of Hospital Readmission
Home health can help reduce hospital readmission rates by providing patients with high-quality, one-on-one care in an environment that is familiar and comfortable to them. For some patients, even simply sleeping in their own bed can provide them with more energy, helping to accelerate their recovery.
What Is the Role of a Home Health Nurse?
The specific role of a home health nurse varies widely based on each patient and their unique needs. Home health nurses may provide wound care, administer IV medication, change catheters, and help a patient bathe. They also assess the patient’s living situation to identify safety risks and determine if any changes are in order.
Home health nurses can work with a wide variety of patients, including those recovering from acute illness or injury, navigating chronic conditions like congestive heart failure, or experiencing progressive diseases like dementia. To ensure they are equipped to meet the needs of such a diverse patient population, home health nurses must partake in ongoing education and training.
What Are the Challenges Faced by Home Health Nurses?
There are several common problems and challenges within home health care that nurses—especially new ones—must be prepared for when entering the field. Some of the most common challenges include:
Some individuals may not welcome the presence of a home health care nurse. These individuals often see home care nursing as a threat to their independence or an invasion of their privacy. While seemingly rare, these patients may violently lash out at their nurses—especially if provoked by a painful experience, such as a blood draw.
Home health nurses have little control over the conditions of the homes they enter. Unclean conditions, pets with diseases, and hazardous materials can all put a home health nurse’s safety in jeopardy.
Inadequate Medical Equipment
Nurses working in homes that lack a sharps container risk experiencing a needle stick injury after they have administered medication. To help avoid these incidents, home health care nurses are encouraged to always carry their own disposal solutions.
Violence in the Home
Violence may be a part of a patient’s home life, putting a nurse’s safety in jeopardy. Home health care nurses must remain aware of their environment at all times and alert officials of unsafe situations.
All nurses, but especially new ones, need access to a robust support network they can turn to with questions and concerns. Some nurses may feel that this is lacking in the home health care environment due to the profession’s more solitary nature.
How To Retain Home Health Nurses
Home health nursing is often stressful and challenging, resulting in high turnover rates among home health care professionals. While it is impossible for home health agencies to remove all of the challenges their staff may face, they can take several steps to ensure their teams feel supported.
1. Provide Professional Development
In a survey conducted by Glassdoor, 79% of employees said they would rather have additional or new benefits than a pay raise. For many of these respondents, employee development programs were a top priority. Through professional development opportunities, home health agencies empower nurses to improve their skills and address challenges with confidence. This helps improve job satisfaction and increase retention rates in home health care.
2. Foster Connection
Many home health nurses lack the peer relationships and mentorship connections found in medical facilities. This can make them feel as if they are working in isolation and that their contributions are going unnoticed. Taking steps to create a sense of community helps nurses feel less alone and more valued. Managers in particular should strive to make more meaningful connections with nurses through team meetings and one-on-ones.
3. Invest in Onboarding
As part of an effective onboarding program, home health agencies will assess each nurse’s unique skills, identify gaps in knowledge, and create a tailored plan to better prepare new hires for the home health care environment. Administrators are also encouraged to disseminate agency policies early on—including policies on dealing with unsafe home situations—to ensure all members of their staff are abreast of best practices.
Provide Your Nurses With Continuing Education
The home health care environment can be challenging for both new and senior nurses to navigate. To ensure they’re providing their patients with the best care possible, these healthcare professionals need access to high-quality continuing education (CE) courses.
At Relias, you can find a wide range of CE courses designed to help home health nurses enhance their skills and increase their confidence, ultimately improving retention and job satisfaction. View our healthcare training and performance solutions to learn more.