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Visiting Nurse – Job Description and Career Outlook

Job Descriptions October 19, 2013


A visiting nurse travels to patients’ homes or assisted living facilities to provide a variety of medical services. Job duties, education requirements and salary vary depending on the specifics of the position. Performing routine evaluations is a large part of the duties for many visiting nurses, but providing aid may also be required. This aid can involve helping patients with hygiene, feeding, and other basic tasks, as well, as more standard medical things like ensuring that medication is being taken. The visiting nurse will also coordinate with other caregivers to make sure that the proper medical care is delivered.

The personal qualities a visiting nurse needs are similar as those needed for other patient-facing medical personnel. A caring attitude, desire to help, and the ability to determine the best courses of action are some core requirements for success and job satisfaction. The nurse must also be able to handle the psychological aspect of sometimes working with patients who will never get better, as is the case with many sick, elderly people.

In many cases, visiting nurses work with home health care agencies instead of specific institutions. In most cases, the title for the job is simply “visiting nurse,” but there may be specialties that add various qualifications to the name.

Work Environment and Job Duties

The work environment for a visiting nurse will be highly varied since it involves going to patients’ homes. Like any other home, the conditions inside can vary from absolutely pristine all the way to complete squalor. Assisted living facilities will likely have cleaner apartments since maid service is part of the package, while a sick person living alone may be quite unable to keep up with the housekeeping.

In some cases, it will fall to the visiting nurse to help with household tasks like laundry and dishwashing. Meal preparation may also be included. Those entering the profession should be prepared for the possibility of ending up as a maid who happens to be able to do medical things.

In many cases, the patients visiting nurses see are elderly people who wish to stay out of a hospital or nursing home. They likely do not have the greatest of memories, so the visiting nurse will need to make sure that medicines are properly taken and that any wounds or catheters are properly cleaned and bandaged. Physical frailty can lead to accidents or general deterioration, so the nurse will have to be on the lookout for developing issues.

Not everyone who needs a visiting nurse is old and frail. Younger people recovering from operations or illnesses may need the help of a nurse during that time period. In these cases, the nurse will likely visit for only a few weeks before the patient is back on his feet.

Requirements and Education

Agencies have different requirements for visiting nurses depending on the specific duties they need to perform. Requirements may also vary between agencies and states. According to the Visiting Nurse Service of Ithaca and Tompkins County in New York State, positions are open for RNs, LPNs, and home health aides. A bachelor’s degree is preferred for RNs, while LPNs only need the appropriate license. Aides need a high school diploma or GED along with a certificate from a 65-hour training program.

Because of the travel involved, a visiting nurse will typically also require a valid driver’s license in the state of practice. A car and insurance will also be needed if the employer doesn’t provide one.

Salary and Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not break out details for visiting nurses, but a general idea can be gained by looking at the figures for the larger related categories. A registered nurse makes a median of $64,690 per year, while a licensed practical nurse (LPN) can make about $40,380. The salary for an aide is significantly less, so it is considered an entry level position.

Job growth for RNs overall is 26 percent, which is higher than average. Growth for LPN slots isn’t quite as hot, but at 22 percent it is still above average when compared to the overall job market.

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