Home Health Nurse Practitioner

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home health nurse practionersHome health nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who serve as primary health care providers for patients requiring health care in the home setting.  They diagnose and treat a wide array of illnesses, disabilities and injuries. Home health nurse practitioners have multiple roles including patient education, coordination of services and referrals to community resources for the homebound.

Home health nurse practitioners are registered nurses who obtain specialized course work at the masters or doctoral degree level. It is proposed that the minimal educational requirement for nurse practitioners be increased to the Doctorate of Nursing level of preparation by 2015. That would require additional rulings by individual state governments.

The average length of stay for hospital admissions has been dramatically reduced. Care that traditionally was provided in hospital and rehabilitation facilities is now being given in private homes. Home health nurse practitioners direct the care of  patients recuperating from surgery or living with chronic illnesses.

The majority of home health nurse practitioners are adult or family nurse practitioners. However opportunities exist for pediatric nurse practitioners as well. Children undergoing treatment for cancer and other serious illnesses often require home health care.

Children with special needs sometimes require highly technical care in the home setting. They may be dependent upon feeding tubes and ventilators. Nurse practitioners provide services to the children and their families. Home health nurse practitioners work with elderly patients who want to remain in their own homes despite functional, cognitive, or medical challenges. Home health nurse practitioners work with private payers, insurance companies and government agencies to ensure the success of the older adults. 

Home health nurse practitioners serve as primary care providers for hospice patients. They make referrals and direct care.

Some students seek a nurse practitioner degree as part of an initial nursing career.  Most people become licensed as a registered nurse and then work towards obtaining education which leads to licensure as a nurse practitioner.

Online and on campus courses of study are available. Programs are available which serve as a bridge for nurses to obtain bachelors and masters degrees as combination programs. Prior to acceptance into the nurse practitioner degree phase of a nursing program, a nurse must obtain a license as a registered nurse in the appropriate state. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is usually required for direct admission into a nurse practitioner degree programs. Students must take the GRE, Graduate Record Exam, in order to be considered for admission to most programs.

Nurse practitioner students are required to do a great deal of independent study. Lengthy internships are mandatory. Internships provide students opportunities to partner with nurse practitioners and physicians in order to gain clinical experience.

Initial course work may be completed on a full or part time basis; however, the final eighteen months of clinicals and coursework require a rigorous full time commitment.

Nurse practitioner programs that award a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree require two years of post masters level coursework.

Nurse practitioners must pass national board exams prior to practicing. Exams are administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. 

The scope of practice of nurse practitioners varies widely among individual states. Nurse practitioners make referrals for therapies, treatments, and diagnostic tests.  They order diets, exercises and medical equipment. Medication prescribing capacities vary depending upon individual state rules. In some jurisdictions, nurse practitioners work independently. However in most states nurse practitioners are required to collaborate with a physician.

Home health nurse practitioners are employed by private and government run home health agencies. They work for managed care companies. Home health nurse practitioners provide services as primary care providers and consultants.

Home health nurse practitioners are considered attending physicians for Medicare reimbursement of services provided to home health and hospice patients. They provide face to face recertification assessments of patients receiving home health and hospice services.

Home health nurse practitioners conduct comprehensive physical examinations. They advocate for patients to receive community, social, and health care services which prevent and treat a vast array of health conditions. As primary care providers, home health nurse practitioners treat minor and serious illnesses. They collaborate with other health care providers regularly to ensure that patients’ physical, mental, functional, and psychosocial needs are met. Home health nurse practitioners provide support for family members of sick and ill patients. They determine whether or not a home setting is the best place for a patient to receive care. Nurse practitioners take leadership roles advocating for changes in health care policies related to health care delivery, quality and reimbursement.

The occupational forecast for home health nurse practitioners is excellent.  The trend to offer health care services in the home setting is expected to continue. Nursing home diversion programs are increasing as well. These trends will require additional home health nurse practitioners to provide services. The average annual salaries of home health nurse practitioners range from eighty- nine thousand to ninety seven thousand dollars annually. Regional differences exist. Home health nurse practitioners are commonly eligible for excellent employee benefit packages. 

  • National Association for Home Care (www.nahc.org)
  • Home Healthcare Nurses Association (www.nahc.org/HHNA)
  • Visiting Nurse Associations of America (www.vnaa.org)
  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners (www.aanp.org)

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