What You Need to Know About Home-Based Nursing Practice

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Nurse gives exam to man at home Home-based medical care is growing in importance, and there aren’t enough providers to reach all who need it.

According to the results of a University of Virginia School of Medicine survey published in Health Affairs, more than half of Americans live more than 30 miles from an agency that provides home-based care, indicating that there are more people who need to be served with not enough care providers in proximity to reach them. So why should you consider taking a home care nursing role?

How does it help the patient?

The impact you can make is huge. Overall, it leads to better care — for example, a nurse can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life by helping to assess their environment and taking steps to ensure they have the right support equipment, or a functioning system for taking medication.

Studies show home care can prevent hospitalization and the need for rehospitalization once a patient has been discharged. Hospitals have an incentive to avoid patient readmissions. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reduce payments to hospitals with excess readmissions for certain conditions.

Because much of the high-tech equipment needed for diagnostic scans like EKGs or X-rays is now portable, home care means a patient doesn’t have to make the uncomfortable or burdensome trip to a facility.

Medical records are now accessible remotely, making patient tracking and documentation much easier, too. In addition to providing better care, overall costs go down, because fewer trips to the hospital are needed. So home health care can especially lessen the financial strains put on patients living with chronic illness and disease.

Variety of settings

Settings aren’t just private homes — home-based care also includes assisted living facilities, group homes and nursing homes.

Home care also ranges widely in duration and need. It can be short term, like in the case of a patient who is recovering from an accident or an injury, or a short-term illness.

But it can also be for longer periods, such as for chronic illness or disease. It can include primary care, like preventive services or to address ongoing specific medical needs. And it’s often done in combination with other in-home services like homemaker or companion services, which provide a total care system for a patient.

Opportunity growing

An aging baby boomer population and higher medical care costs mean home health care is becoming increasingly necessary. And for the Medicare-aged population, an increasing number of patients are having trouble leaving their home due to health issues. There’s especially a need for primary medical care for these patients, like that provided by nurse practitioners and physicians.

What does it take?

Practicing in your patients’ homes isn’t for everyone.

You’ll need strong independent decision-making abilities, since you’ll be making care choices largely on your own while administering care. But you’ll also need to collaborate proactively with others, since patients often have multiple providers and agencies involved in their care.

Finally, you’ll need an aptitude for seeing the whole picture — you’ll be interacting closely with patients and their families in their environments, and you’ll need to take everything into account, prioritize according to that patient’s specific, individual needs.

Next steps

Convinced? If you think home-based care might be right for you, check out agencies looking for nurses in your area. Ask facilities and nurses in your network which home care agencies they partner with, and who they’d recommend.

Searchable directories are also available, and be sure to check your state’s department of health website for a list of home care agencies, too.

Learn More: Click to view related resources.

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