A Passion for Home Health Nursing

By: Carmen Dalton, RN-BC, Director of Nursing

When you think of a Registered Nurse, what do you envision? Do you think of someone dressed in white scrubs, walking up and down busy hospital hallways answering call lights? Do you imagine someone running a code in the emergency room, or caring for clients in a different acute care setting? While I myself, and my field nurses, can all proudly say, we were once one of those nurses, I would like to bring awareness to the area of home health nursing, as we celebrate Nurse’s Week from May 6th- May 12th.

Many new grads start their nursing journeys in hospital settings or other healthcare facilities. Such career paths can provide crucial experiences and knowledge within the medical field, and can often be so rewarding that the nurse may wish to maintain their entire career in this one area. However, other nurses draw on this expertise and choose a more autonomous and personalized type of nursing.

The field of home healthcare is growing, and we are seeing an increased acuity level in the care of our patients. People are leaving the hospital with more complex issues than ever before. Therefore, there is a growing need for experienced clinicians in homecare settings.

When I receive a phone call from a family member of a potential client, I am met with many questions and fear of the unknown. Often times, the family member will recognize that their relative needs help, but they are unaware of what needs to be done and/or what homecare entails. During this initial call, we discuss medical history, family dynamics, and the home environment. I then offer a plan of action, based on the data the family provides. I enjoy these initial calls. It is very fulfilling to allay a family’s fears and provide them clarity and hope for their loved one’s care.

The next step is to schedule a nursing assessment. The nursing assessment is crucial and highly informative. Aside from obtaining medical history, the nurses have an opportunity to see the home environment, review the client’s routine and daily schedule, and perform a home safety check, which may address safety issues that the family is not aware of. When I perform an initial assessment, I like to look at photographs in the client’s home. I ask questions about the pictures. I want to absorb as much information as I can about my client’s life; what they enjoy(ed), and where they have been. It’s a very personal and intimate experience: An old wedding picture, a husband’s burial flag on display, Grandchildren’s drawings. These items are all so important in understanding who the client is and how to respect and honor his or her life during our time together.

Following an assessment, the home health nurse begins her search for the right caregiver, who will best meet the client’s needs. Each home health aide offers something different. Some of our employees are highly seasoned, and have been working in home healthcare for decades. Others are students in the medical field, who are using homecare as a stepping stone that will provide them with a wealth of experience for resume building. The aides are provided with the information obtained during the initial assessment, in order to provide appropriate and personalized care. Our client families often come to love their aides.

Last month, I had a client discharged from a local Skilled Nursing Facility. Because the client was moving back home, her family asked that we transition from an hourly to a live-in caregiver. The client’s daughter was very apprehensive and fearful that her mother would relapse and end up back in the hospital. I was in constant communication with her and introduced her to an aide that I felt would be a great match.

The client was discharged on a Wednesday. I followed up regularly for the first few days. Then, the client’s daughter no longer responded to my calls, which I thought was odd. When I finally spoke with her, she said:

Everything is going so well! J is like family to us. I am sorry Carmen. I guess we kicked you out of the loop!

These are the statements I live for.

Our nurses are invaluable to Unicity Healthcare. They are the client’s educator and advocate. Our nurses are in the field day and night caring for our cl ients with dignity, respect and compassion. It is their mission to ensure and maintain the quality of life that each individual deserves. This is the face of home health nursing.

Happy Nurse’s Week to all nurses, especially those who has chosen Home Health Nursing as their passion!

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