In this weekly feature, the editors of SpringBoard highlight one career in the health care professions–including a basic description, educational requirements, core competencies/key skills needed, and related web sites and professional organizations where you can find more information!
There are several public health programs that involve home visits by nurses, not to provide traditional nursing care, but to help catch problems and increase the potential for good health. For example, a home visit nurse might spend an hour or two each week teaching a teenage mother life skills (changing and feeding the baby, checking for safety hazards, etc.) that will help her to be a good parent. She makes sure that baby’s development is on track, and if there is a problem, she connects the mother with services that can help. She helps mothers access other services, too, from housing to general educational development (GED) programs to domestic violence hotlines. The home visit nurse might also provide counseling to a teenage parent who is struggling with drugs, alcohol, or mental health problems. Some programs provide continued home visits through the child’s early years. In addition to working with clients, home visit nurses also have to maintain patient charts and keep up with new regulations, requirements, and research. The job may include some evening and weekend visits.
EDUCATION AND CERTIFICATION
A home visit nurse must have a current state registered nurse (RN) license. A BSN degree (as opposed to a nursing diploma or associate’s degree) may be required. Home visiting experience, training in obstetrics and prenatal care, and experience as a pediatric nurse can all be helpful. Once a nurse is hired for a home visit program, there is usually a period of on-the-job training, as well.
CORE COMPETENCIES AND SKILLS
- Flexibility and patience to deal with missed appointments, traffic, and challenging patients
- Willingness to travel to low-income, potentially dangerous areas
- Strong initiative and organizational skills
- Knack for teaching and for helping people set and meet goals
- Appreciation of diverse cultures and ways of thinking
- Knowledge of or an interest in learning about pediatric development, parenting skills, and basic mental health care
- Knowledge of local, state, and national programs to assist parents and families
- Fluency in a language other than English (may be needed)
In one major city, home visit nurses in a public health program earn from the $60,000s to over $75,000. In a southern state with a lower cost of living, nurses in a similar program start at about $45,000.
Home visit nurses often work for health departments. They also work for nonprofit organizations and for private companies that contract with public health programs. In addition to maternal and child health programs, nurses who make home visits can also be found in outreach programs for the elderly.
One of the most prominent home visit programs has been going strong for more than 30 years, and a track record of good outcomes means that programs are likely to continue. Competition for jobs varies, but some programs have actually found it a challenge to recruit nurses, since this work is quite different from a typical nursing role.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
- Visiting Nurse Associations of America (VNAA)
- Also see the organizations listed with the Public Health Nurse job description.