Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary
Long before the days of expansive hospital campuses and 24-hour clinics, most healthcare took place in people’s homes. And while the medical industry has undoubtedly advanced significantly since the days of traveling doctors making house calls, there are still many reasons why patients may prefer to receive care at home. If you love the idea of providing primary care to people in a much more personal environment, becoming a home care nurse practitioner might be the nursing specialty you’ve been looking for. Not only do home care nurse practitioners have lots of independence, they also earn some of the top salaries among all nursing specialties! In fact, we recently featured home care nurse practitioners on our list of the highest-paid nursing jobs in 2021.
This career guide will teach you everything you need to know about becoming a home care nurse practitioner, including the educational requirements, certifications, day-to-day duties, and how long it generally takes to launch your new career.
Not sure if becoming a home care nurse practitioner is the right nursing specialty for you? Click here to see our full list of the highest-paying nursing jobs.
Home Care Nurse Practitioner Definition
What is a Home Care Nurse Practitioner?
Home care nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) that provide primary care to people in the privacy of their own homes. Like other APRNs, home care nurse practitioners are qualified to diagnose and treat any number of health conditions and perform certain tasks traditionally reserved for physicians, like ordering diagnostic tests or prescribing medications.
Home Care Nurse Practitioner: Job Description
What Does a Home Care Nurse Practitioner Do?
While they’re certainly trained to handle emergencies, home care nurse practitioners tend to focus more on preventative or palliative care. Their patients often include people recovering from significant injuries, people living with chronic illnesses or disabilities, and elderly or terminally ill patients spending their last days in a comfortable, familiar environment. As part of helping their patients manage health issues and improve their overall wellness, home care nurse practitioners frequently provide education as well as referrals to other healthcare providers or community resources.
Home Care Nurse Practitioner Duties
Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of home care nurse practitioners include:
- Assessing patients and recording their progress
- Prescribing medication and performing minor procedures
- Ordering diagnostic tests and interpreting their results
- Educating patients and their caregivers on managing health conditions and overall wellness
- Providing referrals to physicians or other healthcare professionals, as necessary
Home Care Nurse Practitioner Skills
The best home care nurse practitioners are both highly organized and quick on their feet, as treating complex medical issues inside people’s homes requires a little more flexibility than a standardized hospital environment. Like all other advanced-practice nurses, you’ll need to be confident in your medical knowledge and problem-solving skills. Patients in home care settings often have multiple health conditions or take several medications that can all interact with one another. Therefore, listening and communication skills are equally important for home care nurse practitioners. After all, when your patients and their families feel heard and understood, they’re much more likely to stick to their treatment plan.
Where Do Home Care Nurse Practitioners Work?
In the case of this career, the name says it all. Home care nurse practitioners work almost exclusively in their patients’ homes. In some cases, they may practice independently or be employed by home-care management companies. Home care nurse practitioners usually work full-time, and hours may vary significantly. Depending on your employer and patient population, they may need to be on-call during nights, weekends, or holidays.
Home Care Nurse Practitioner Schooling & Certification
How Long Does it Take to Become a Home Care Nurse Practitioner?
What Degree Do You Need to Become a Home Care Nurse Practitioner?
Becoming a home care nurse practitioner will require several years of investment into your education and building the necessary work experience, but the chance to earn a great living while building fulfilling relationships is more than worth it. Like any other nursing specialty, you’ll need to start by earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited college or university. Traditionally, that requires spending a full four years in school, but with an accelerated degree program, you could earn your BSN in as little as 32 months! Home care nurse practitioners will also need to earn a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) before they’re able to practice independently.
Any long-term goal seems much more attainable when you break it down into individual steps, and becoming a home care nurse practitioner is no different.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to the education, experience, and certifications you’ll need to become a home care nurse practitioner:
1. Enroll in a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program
The first step in your home care nurse practitioner education is enrolling in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program from an accredited college or university. While nursing school is certainly no walk in the park, nearly anyone can become a registered nurse if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to succeed. For example, to enroll in the BSN program at Brookline College, all you’ll need is a high school diploma or GED with a GPA of 2.5 or higher, plus a passing score on the ATI-TEAS admission exam.
2. Earn Your BSN Degree
Like any of the other top nursing specialties, your career as a home care nurse practitioner starts with earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Your BSN coursework will include general-education requirements like math, literature, statistics, psychology, and communications—courses you’ll find in any bachelor’s degree program. While these classes may not be directly related to nursing or medicine, they’ll help you become a better critical thinker and communicator, which means you’ll be a more confident home care nurse practitioner with a better bedside manner.
Of course, the main focus of your BSN program will involve learning the various aspects of nursing. Some of your classes will cover how to assess patients and best care for all different patient groups, including many of the disabled or chronically ill patients you’ll be treating as a home care nurse practitioner. Others will teach you about pharmacology and all the different medicines and units of measure used in the medical field. You’ll also cover health care law and ethics and take classes that focus on improving your evidence-based decision-making. These classes will help you make better clinical decisions and teach you how to handle certain situations that may have moral or legal implications.
Alongside your nursing-specific coursework, you’ll also spend time studying related medical sciences like anatomy, microbiology, nutrition, and human development. Establishing a well-rounded knowledge of medicine will be essential in decoding some of the complex comorbidities that can be common in home-care patients.
The final step of your BSN education requires completing a clinical capstone program, which will give you hands-on experience in an actual healthcare facility. While your nursing program will involve plenty of simulated treatment scenarios, there’s no substitute for real-world experience where your patients are experiencing real symptoms and emotions. Building your skills and confidence in a clinical setting will be essential to your future career as a home care nurse practitioner since you’ll often be operating with little to no direct supervision.
Wherever you choose to pursue your nursing degree, make sure it’s with a college that’s up-to-date on the latest training tools, and one with a proven track record of supporting their students as they transition from nursing school to a nursing career. Colleges that offer students extra services like job-placement programs can sometimes help you line up your first job as an RN before you’ve even planned your graduation party!
3. Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam
Before you can become a home care nurse practitioner, you’ll need to get licensed as a registered nurse by passing the NCLEX-RN exam. The NCLEX is a computer-adaptive test, meaning the number of questions and the amount of time it takes will depend on how many questions you answer correctly. The highest number of questions is typically around 265 over a maximum of six hours—however, the test can also be over in as few as 75 questions if you’re answering everything correctly! Two optional breaks are scheduled at the 2-hour mark and the 3.5-hour mark. While you should be well-prepared after completing your BSN program, it can’t hurt to take a practice exam beforehand. Many people find it helpful to get a look at the test format ahead of time and identify any areas where you may need to take another look at your notes from nursing school.
4. Gain Experience as a Licensed Registered Nurse
Once you’ve passed the NCLEX, you’ll be eligible to receive a nursing license from the state in which you intend to practice. The NCLEX is nationally recognized, which gives you the flexibility to take your nursing skills anywhere you want to work. Any RN experience will be valuable, though for a future career as a home care nurse practitioner, you may want to seek out employment with a home healthcare services company, or places like retirement communities where medical care is often closely intertwined with people’s home lives.
Nursing license renewal requirements vary by state, but you’ll generally need to renew your license every two to three years. As long as you’ve been actively working as an RN or participating in continuing education programs (like an MSN degree program, for example), keeping your nursing license current should be a breeze.
5. Earn a Postsecondary Nursing Degree
Like all advanced practice registered nurses, home care nurse practitioners must complete a postgraduate nursing degree—almost always a master’s of science in nursing (MSN). Many educational institutions offer MSN programs focused on advanced-practice nursing, which will build upon what you learned during your BSN program as well as your real-world experience as a registered nurse.
You’ll find advanced-practice MSN programs at nursing schools across the country, including online programs that allow working full-time as a registered nurse while earning your master’s degree. Typically, earning your MSN degree takes two more years in school, though you can finish some accelerated programs as quickly as 18 months.
6. Become a Board-Certified Nurse Practitioner
After completing a master’s-degree program focused on advanced-practice nursing, most home care nurse practitioners get certified as either a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) or an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP). Nurse practitioner certifications are widely recognized from both the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. NP certifications are valid for five years, and show prospective employers (and patients) that you’ve mastered the advanced knowledge and training required to serve as your patients’ primary healthcare provider.
Home Care Nurse Practitioner Salary
How Much Do Home Care Nurse Practitioners Make?
According to Salary.com, the average annual salary* among all home care nurse practitioners is over $112,000, or about $54 per hour. Home care nurse practitioners in the top 10% of earners can expect to get paid $129,000 per year and up.
Home Care Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook
What is the Job Outlook for Home Care Nurse Practitioners?
While chronic illnesses or long recoveries used to require lengthy hospital stays, more patients nowadays are receiving home care in an environment that often makes them feel much more at ease. That’s good news for home care nurse practitioners, who are stepping up to provide top-notch care for people of all ages, with all types of health conditions. While the BLS doesn’t provide detailed job data specifically for home care nurse practitioners, the overall number of nurse practitioners is expected to jump an impressive 45% by the year 2030. Considering the average growth rate for all other jobs is around 4%, any nurse practitioner career comes along with one of the best long-term job outlooks in the medical industry.
Ready to Start Your Career as a Home Care Nurse Practitioner?
If you love the idea of building personal relationships with your patients—and working in a much more intimate home environment—a career as a home care nurse practitioner could be the nursing specialty you’ve been waiting to discover. As one of the highest-paid nursing careers, it’s a chance to earn a great living—but beyond that, you’ll get the opportunity to improve people’s lives every single day, and even get to feel like a valued part of their families.
Ready to get started on the road to a rewarding career as a home care nurse practitioner? Click here to learn more about the BSN program at Brookline College, and take the first steps toward your new career in nursing today!