The Role of Nurses in Home Health Care

Submitted by Dr. Chinazo Echezona-Johnson, DNP, EdD, LLB, MSN, PCC, CNE, CNEcl, NPD-BC, RNC-MNN

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The Role of Nurses in Home Health Care

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Chinazo Echezona-Johnson, Ed.D, LL.B, MSN, RNC-MNN is the Assistant Director of Maternal-Child Educator at the Health and Hospital Corporation, Metropolitan Hospital Center.

The role of a Home health nurse is unique, exciting and sometimes very challenging. With the demand for a safe, cost-effective and quality health care by the consumers, the home health field is the future of health-care. Home health-care nurses make a significant impact and contribution to the health-care industry, the community, and to the lives of their patients and their families.

While the role can be very demanding, home health care offers professional nurses the opportunity to provide holistic care to their patients. Home health nurses are experienced professionals with diverse clinical skills, theoretical knowledge, and life experiences. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act by the Obama administration, there is a high demand for home health nurses and other professionals. Many chronically ill patients are going home with complex and sophisticated medical equipment. The care of patients at home is more cost effective than care at the hospitals and other health-care institutions.

Vulnerable, home-bound and marginalized patients depend on these nurses for almost everything. Home health nurses care, educate and support their patients and their families. Unlike their counterparts who work in hospital settings, home health nurses have numerous roles.  Some of these roles are not the traditional nursing functions. These exceptional home health nurses function as the health managers and coordinators of care for their patients. Additionally, these nurses can be involved in the assessment of their patients’ families and their patients’ environments. These practitioners sometimes have to intervene in the lives of their patients or the patients' the environment to offset some health adversity. Some of these nurses would serve as unofficially safety inspectors, the family friend, the liaison between patients and their health-care practitioners, the comforter, the teacher, and the safety advocate. Additionally, these nurses also serve as the unofficial confidante, the protector, the interpreter, social change agents and health-care advisers. The home health nurse must be willing to collaborate with other health-care practitioners to care for their assigned patients.

To be a successful home health nurse, the individual must possess a wide-ranging array of skills. These nurses must be experts in their specialties. They must possess exceptional clinical skills. These individuals must be well-knowledgeable about different age groups and different disease processes. Also, they must be tolerant of different cultures, ethnic and religious groups. Furthermore, the nurse must know how to be self-sufficient, flexible, creative, assertive and autonomous. The nurse must know how to acquire and use information and resources efficiently. An efficient home care nurse must know how to think critically and how to multi-task. These nurses must know how to manage and use the available resources to provide a cost-effective care. These nurses must know how to use different computer applications and software to document the care that they provide. Finally, the nurse must learn how to communicate with all age groups. They have to be able to utilizing available resources to educate and inform their patients. Finally, home health nurses have a general knowledge of the cultures of their patients. Home health nurses are usually very adventurous, have excellent interpersonal skills, and eager to learn new things.

With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, the home health nurses’ role will continue to expand as long as more health-care stakeholders demand decrease in medical expenditures and expeditious but safe quality health care. Nurses willing to get into the field must be prepared to learn, develop their nursing skills and be ready to accept the flexibility of the role.