How is Home Health Nursing Different from Hospital Nursing?

There is a lot of discussion now about the concept of “hospital at home.” Many of the services that were once offered in a hospital setting can now be provided at home.

As a result, many nurses and therapists who once felt limited to a hospital setting are now interested in home health careers. This gives them a chance to utilize the skills they gained in the hospital while spending more time one-on-one with each patient.

So what are some of the key differences between a home health and a hospital career? Hear from some of our nurses to find out exactly what it’s like to be a home health nurse.

1. Goals of Home Health vs. Hospital Care

Kevin Holstein, RN, CMSRN, explained that the goals of hospital care are fundamentally different from caring for a patient at home.

“Our goal in the hospital, as it should be, was to get the patients as stable as possible and get them back home,” Holstein said. “In the hospital, we were very task-oriented. I might have five or six patients, and medications to distribute, blood to draw, IVs to hang. It is one task after another, one nursing skill after another. I didn’t have a lot of time to do preventative medicine to keep them from coming back to the hospital.

“In the home health setting, it’s just the opposite,” he said. “You have so much time to do teaching and make sure they know what exacerbations to watch for. You help with diet, with mood, with sleep… all the different things that go into a patient’s healing.”

2. Develop Deeper Relationships with Patient

Several A Path of Care Network employees commented about the special relationships that develop with patients when they have time to get to know them and talk with their families.

“Just hearing their stories… they kind of become like a second family to you,” Stephanie Ruby, RN, said. “They want to hear about your kids and what’s going on in your life. A lot of times, I’m the only person a patient gets to see. Some don’t have caregivers who can come by, especially during the COVID outbreaks. I like to not only educate them and provide care, but also take time to really talk to them.”

It’s almost like “being adopted,” according to CEO Brian Wilson, R.Ph. “When you go into these homes, they look at you… overtime… as a part of their family. And you might just wind up getting adopted,” Wilson said with a smile. “I have a daughter who’s a speech therapist and she still stays in touch with some former patients. It’s really a family mentality.”

3. Maximize Your Nursing Skills

“Sometimes we get stuck in one area and don’t realize there are other things out there. But we need all types of nurses,” said Holstein. “We see psychiatric patients, we see medical-surgical patients, we see post-operative patients. If you are proficient in a specific area of nursing, I guarantee you there’s a patient at home somewhere that could benefit from those skills.”

“I love the independence and I feel like it really makes me a strong nurse,” Ruby said. “I’m not just stuck in one setting. I get to do all of it. I feel like my wound care skills have gotten really great. I’m using every skill I have. I have to say that being hands-on, being involved really keeps me up to par where I need to be as a nurse.”

Wilson explained that there are many more services that can be provided at home now to manage complex patients. “We have highly skilled nursing, IV therapy, pain management, physical and occupational therapy, new types of equipment and supplies. All of this helps patients heal safely at home. We provide a great deal of training to keep our clinicians on the cutting edge of care.”

4. More Time with Patients

“What I love about home health is the one-on-one setting,” Ruby explained. “I don’t have 14 people down the hall waiting for me. While I’m with a patient, that patient gets all my time and focus. There’s no rush.”

“It goes back to having the time to be able to spend with the patient to prevent them from going back to the hospital,” Holstein said. “We can affect not only what happened during their surgery or hospital stay but help them with their diet and their emotional health, their mental health, their physical health. We have the opportunity to actually look at a patient as a whole person and keep them from going back to the hospital. We can help them avoid exacerbations and extend their lives.”

“You really get to know that person and they look forward to you coming,” Holstein said. “You may only be there 45 minutes or an hour, but it’s time that helps their healing. And it does something for you as well.”

Are You Ready to Start Your Home Health Career?

Home health nurses are at the cutting edge of care and, now more than ever, are essential for keeping Americans safe and healthy. If you’re ready to start your career in home health, then start it with Sooner. Visit our careers page to see option positions for nurses, aids, and more.

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