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What to Look for in a Home Care Nurse

Home health aids, or home care nurses, often cover a wide range of jobs for patients. Usually, a home care nurse is hired when an aging family member is in need of some extra assistance in their everyday lives. Whether they need an occasional housekeeper, a full-time aid, or weekly errands run, there is an HHA or home health aid that can do the job.

Home health aides and home care nurses have many specialties and personality differences. It is often hard to find a perfect match, but we think there is a way to make the task a little less daunting for aging families and loved ones.

Home health aids take care of a few vital tasks depending on the intensity of the patient care needed. Some can provide postoperative treatment, physical therapy, and wound care while others do various tasks like clean, cook, and run errands. It is important to know what kind of care you are seeking when considering a home care nurse.

Certification and Training

Firstly, there is a required federal minimum number of hours needed to become a certified home health aid. There is training, specialized focuses, and certifications varying state by state, but in order to be considered a home care nurse, you will need an active ACLS certification.

Federal and State Requirements

According to the Cornell Legal Information Institute, home care nurses must meet specified requirements. These include:

  • Training and competency evaluations and programs
  • Nurse aide training and evaluations are approved by the state and are in good standing on the state nurse aide registry
  • State licensure program requirements that meet specific training content and duration minimums

Also, home care nurse training must include classroom and supervised practical training overseen by a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse. A minimum of 15 hours of classroom training before 16 hours of supervised practical training must be a part of the total 75 hours needed for certification.

These classes must cover the basics of home health care and include a variety of skill assessments, including communication skills, observation, reporting, and documentation, maintenance of an environment, recognizing emergencies, and basics like personal hygiene and grooming tasks like shampooing and brushing your teeth.

Every year in-service training is required—a minimum of 12 hours which is standard to maintain skills and up-to-date knowledge. There are also specific machine training exercises that need to be practiced, such as taking a pulse or recognizing ECG rhythms. Home health aids vary in the specialization as well, and they are all unique, providing a different brand or level of service.

Types of Home Health Aids

Home health aides often get lumped together, and often the title itself becomes a blanket term for anyone who helps out an older person with their needs. However, there are different kinds of home care nurses, and we’re going to briefly discuss each kind.

Companions or homemakers are often those who talk to the patient, prepare meals, take out the food that is required, trash, and run errands for those who are unable. These require no certification or license at all and can be performed by any able-bodied person with a background check.

Personal care aides can do all the tasks homemakers can, however, they are more involved with the patient’s care. Bathing, grooming, and other intimate situations are their focus, and they have to pass training requirements that vary state by state.

Certified nursing assistants or home care nurses perform the tasks of both of the former and can do or assist with medical procedures. Examples are catheters or diabetic insulin injections. This is where they will need 75 hours of training and states to vary in the number of clinical training hours.

How to Hire a Home Care Nurse

Now that you know the duties and training required for a home care nurse, you can hire one with confidence. The only problem is that you might not know where to start. Should you advertise? Find someone online or perhaps through an agency?

There are many options for those wishing to hire a home care nurse, and we’ll explain the differences between them. The two most common options are through an agency or direct hire. One of the main differences between the two is the length and effort put into the process.

An Agency

This is the easiest option for those with the money but who are too busy to go through the extensive process of hiring directly. The agency is simpler because it processes everything to do with the home care nurse, including hiring and HR.

Most agencies also monitor and supervise their nurses and respond promptly to issues or complaints from the patient. You are also able to reach the agency at any time if there is an issue and replace your nurse should the need arise.

You must be smart about hiring an agency, assuring that they are licensed by the state they operate in. Find out about their business ethics, conduct, license status, and types of certifications as well.

They will take care of everything for you for a price, and if you are willing and able to pay it, this is the right choice for you. It assures a certified caregiver but it also gives you the option to search amongst a pool of many quality candidates until you find one that works best.

Personality Requirements

If you decide not to go with an agency, you will have to hire someone on your own. There are a few basic requirements for home care nurses and the most important is personality. You cannot underestimate the value of a personality that works for you.

Usually, home care nurses are caring, detail-oriented, hard-working, communicative, and willing learners. They are helpful and flexible but should also have patience which makes the cornerstone of any home care business.

You should look for someone with similar interests as you or your loved one, but you should also keep in mind that your choice will need to monitor, report, and in some cases treat emergencies. It is important to separate the distinction between a good nurse and a good companion.

References and Background Checks

It is highly recommended that you get a resume, references, a background check, and a copy of their certification information. References and background checks are the most time-consuming part of hiring a home care nurse. They are also the most valuable tool to use when finding someone that is honest and hard working.

References should be from long-term care jobs or long-term medical offices or professionals. These are experienced and steady workers if they’ve already held positions in the field of home healthcare.

Background checks can be done on a local level by going to your county clerk’s office and purchasing a background check. You cannot do this for the applicant and will need them to acquire one before coming to any interview or screening.

Lastly, it is important to know who the home care nurse is so taking them out for a coffee, a walk, or even meeting up at their favorite store or restaurant is a good way to gauge their interests. You want them to feel relaxed so you can see their personality more clearly.

Specialized Care

Of course, if you are looking for a home care nurse with specialized training, the best option is to go through an agency. They can find the exact candidate you need and can make sure that your health is not compromised during a lengthy application and interview process.

There are several special skills home care nurses must have, but the specific duties and functions for most certified applicants include the following:

  • Bathing, dressing, eating, grooming, toileting, and personal care
  • Vital signs, including blood pressure, respiration, blood glucose levels, and pulse
  • Recognizing emergencies and accidents ranging from heart attacks to strokes
  • Assessing a patient’s physical and mental condition
  • Maintaining and monitoring diet, hydration, and bodily functions
  • Regulating physical exercise levels

If you need more in-depth home care, such as wound cleaning, physical therapy, or a live-in nurse, an agency will find you the perfect candidate. These are more difficult kinds of nurses to find and hire on your own, and agencies can be important mediators for long-term arrangements.

Keeping Your Home Care Nurse

There is a side to home care nursing that isn’t spoken about as much as it should be, and it is important to understand some things before taking on a nurse. Nurses are there to take care of a single patient and any time, effort, or expense that they donate beyond that single patient is charity.

Therefore, asking your nurse to give rides to family members, provide necessities to your household, or otherwise use their skills for another person’s benefit is an extra service. These kinds of situations should always be discussed before hiring.

Care and Quality Goes Both Ways

As we said, the home care nurse is there to help a single patient. Respecting that boundary and that relationship is a two-way street. It is unethical and selfish to take advantage of anyone’s good-hearted nature and efforts.

This is what will land you on blacklists with agencies and will make it difficult for you to find an ideal home care nurse for your situation. Make sure you understand that professionalism, care, and quality are all interlinked with this sort of relationship.

Wrap Up

There are several things you should consider when hiring a home care nurse. Keeping informed of laws, scheduling, training, certifications, and personal details is a hard job that often goes unremarked.

Skilled home health care professionals with a sense of duty for their communities often find themselves in this profession so when you are hiring, look for that honesty and compassion that shines through personality.