Not just anyone can be a nurse. It takes a special kind of compassionate personality, calm head, and intestinal fortitude to care for people in their times of need. To juggle hectic schedules and competing demands. Often, to find creative ways to make a difference for patients in the limited time you are able to spend with them. It’s all just a day in the life of a nurse.
But, as much as you love what you do, sometimes it’s just too much of a good thing. Prone to work stress and burnout, many facility-based nurses sooner or later consider the possibilities of working in other settings such as home health care, either as a part-time sideline or as a next-chapter career shift. The slower, one-patient-at-a-time pace is an appealing change from the hustle and bustle of most facility nursing—and it reduces the high mileage on your feet!
Transitioning from a hospital to home setting can seem like a huge culture change, and it certainly does come with its own set of adjustments and considerations—but it also comes with deeply satisfying rewards. The trick is to anticipate the differences and consider if they will be a good match with your personality and desired lifestyle.
It helps to know upfront that striking the right balance will be the key to your success. When patients welcome you into their home, you’re entering their lives. With this privilege comes great responsibility, requiring some personal and professional skills that can be unique to the home care setting. Great home care nurses successfully navigate the professional-personal dynamic by not letting their close relationship with the patient and family affect the way they provide nursing services. Finding this balance requires tact, creativity, flexibility, good humor, respect, and patience—but the payoff can be enormous.
Time enough at last
As a compassionate caregiver, you are likely to enjoy the luxury of a one-on-one nurse-to-patient ratio that home care offers. You know, the kind of nursing you pictured yourself doing while in school. Not only will you be able to give your patient the full range of your time, skills, and attention, but you will be there to see the fruits of your labors. You’ll have the chance to sit down and connect with how your patient is feeling and what they’re thinking. You’ll be there as they gain comfort, independence, and dignity. You will get to know them as a whole individual and, in many cases, get to watch them relax more completely and heal faster than they would in a hospital setting. It’s not unusual for nurses to find a second family in their patients’ homes.
Many nurses transitioning from the hospital to home workplace worry that home care may be less varied and stimulating compared with inpatient care. Of course, this depends on your caseload, but you may be surprised by the high levels of variety and complexity found in home care nursing services. Technological advances have made in-home complex care—such as tracheostomy and ventilator management—commonplace and available to people of all ages. In fact, some homes resemble “mini-ICUs.”
There’s also no shortage of children and adults of all ages requiring in-home IV therapy, wound care, or enteral feeding care. The aging population is in large part responsible for the increased demand for in-home care and unplanned hospitalizations. Keeping them safe at home means a better quality of life for them, lower medical costs for payors, and more job opportunities for you. It’s a win-win-win.
You can make the difference
Home care nurses often find that working autonomously actually stretches the variety of their responsibilities. At home, there is no respiratory therapist on call. If your patient needs a mucus plug removed—you’re on. For some, that may seem a little daunting; but for the right person with the right training, it can be an unusually engaging and rewarding calling. And an employer that offers reliable, 24/7 clinical support will make you feel like you’re never really alone.
Working independently in the field, it is important to educate yourself about the resources available to you as a home care nurse and make the effort to keep learning new skills, growing and advancing in your career, and interacting with your peers. Look for a home care employer that offers opportunities for skills training, continuing education, and career development.
If you’re ready for a career change or just want to pick up some extra shifts doing something different, you may find that home care nursing provides the flexibility, work-life balance, and customization that can perfectly suit your professional interests and personal lifestyle. (And your tired feet will surely thank you!)