How to Become a Home Care Nurse: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a home care nurse. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in home care nursing. View article »

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  • 0:40 Career Requirements
  • 1:15 Steps to Be a Home Care Nurse

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Home Care Nurse?

Home care nurses work with patients in their homes, administering long-term or follow-up care after discharge from a hospital or medical facility. Working outside of a medical facility means that home care nurses need to be self-directed and able to manage their time efficiently. They work not only with patients but also with patients' families. In addition to being proficient clinicians, they must possess strong communication skills and be able to work with people from various cultures and lifestyles. This job may be physically demanding and might require lifting, turning, or moving patients who need the assistance.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Diploma, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree
Degree Field(s) Nursing
Licensure and/or Certification National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) required
Experience One year of experience is often required
Key Skills Critical thinking, communication, and organizational skills; compassion, attention to detail, and listening abilities; knowledge of and ability to use medical database software, office software, and medical equipment
Median Salary (Jan 2016)* $57,033 a year

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine, Multiple job postings (September 2012), *

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Steps to Be a Home Care Nurse

If you want to become a home care nurse, here are the steps you'll need to take:

Step 1: Complete a Nursing Program

To become a nurse, a student must complete a diploma, associate's, or bachelor's degree program in nursing. Diploma and associate's degree programs are available at 2-year community, vocational, and technical colleges and combine nursing study with general education units. These courses require that students complete coursework, laboratory work, and clinical practicums. Bachelor's degree programs generally consist of two years of general education requirements and two years of upper-division nursing units. These programs also have clinical and laboratory components.

To be successful during this step, find volunteer opportunities. Organizations offer home visiting volunteer opportunities, which can give prospective nurses a chance to build skills interacting with clients in home environments. In addition to helping aspiring home care nurses build skills, these opportunities can help volunteers determine whether or not home health care is the right career for them.

Step 2: Become Licensed

After obtaining a nursing degree and meeting other state requirements, students may sit for the NCLEX-RN, administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Students who pass this test are eligible to become licensed registered nurses (RNs) through the states in which they reside.

To be successful getting licensed, be sure to study for the exam. Testing organizations and colleges offer NCLEX-RN exam prep courses. Enrolling on one of these courses could increase a student's chance's of passing the exam. Also, you should prepare for the exam. Before your test day, review the testing procedures and exam format. Additionally, you should locate your test site prior to the exam day.

Step 3: Gain Experience as a Registered Nurse

Most employers hiring home care nurses seek candidates with at least one year of nursing experience, preferably in critical care. Working in the emergency room, critical care unit, or intensive care unit of a hospital can provide the necessary skills to function in a home care setting.

Step 4: Opportunities for Career Advancement

If a home care nurse wants to move up in their field, with the right amount of experience and advanced education they have many opportunities to do so. A registered nurse may be able to move into a more desirable environment, such as hospitals or community health settings. Additionally, a home care nurse can move into either the management or the business side of their career, which may offer a higher salary. Some home care nurses may also decide to become advanced practice registered nurses, which would mean increased responsibilities such as caring directly for patients in both general and specialized situations and being able to prescribe medications.

The path to becoming a home care nurse involves earning a diploma or undergraduate degree in nursing and then passing the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed.

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