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Making the Switch: Transitioning to Home Healthcare

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Tips for changing your career path

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Tips for changing your career path

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News By Profession

Home Health

Tips for changing your career path

By Sarah Sutherland

Changing your career path isn't easy, especially in healthcare. Spending years in school with a specific destination in mind before completely altering your direction is tough. Maybe you're a nurse who entered the field because of an inspirational experience you had when you were young, and now you work in pediatrics yourself. Maybe you're a physician who completed your residency in an emergency department and determined that the high-speed environment was a good match for your skills when you earned your degree. At first, your career path seemed set in stone, a definite match with what you've always worked towards.

Perhaps that changed. Maybe you've realized that you want to start working with a different age group. Maybe the ED has become too stressful. Maybe you want to build stronger relationships with the patients that you're serving.

Maybe home healthcare is for you.

"There was a time when I was excited for the diversity of experiences that I had in the ED, but after a while I began to want to connect a little more deeply with patients," shared Vanessa Hartman, RN, BSN, area director for BAYADA Home Health Care. She previously worked as an ED nurse. "I wanted to see them through and know how things turned out in the end. Time in the emergency department often doesn?t allow for that."

How can you decide whether or not home healthcare is the right path for you? ADVANCE recommends a few considerations before you take the plunge.

Setting

There's a huge difference between working in a hospital or clinic and working in someone's home. Some people thrive in the fast-paced environment of hospitals, while others benefit more from the typically slower pace that is seen in home healthcare. However, Hartman emphasized that there are pros and cons to both settings.

Home Nurse

"My experience in the hospital was invaluable and definitely contributed to my success in home healthcare," said Hartman. "The pace, however, could be overwhelming. Often the interactions felt pressured or rushed because there was always something that could interrupt at any moment: a ringing phone, a call bell, a family member for another patient, a deteriorating situation."

"However, you are on your home 'turf,"' she added. "The physical environment is a little easier to control. You typically have all of the resources that one would need at their immediate disposal."

Though the "home" part of home healthcare may seem to hint at comfort and relaxation for the patient, for the healthcare professional, it is often anything but. "The physical environment can be a challenge in home health," Hartman said. "We cannot control how someone chooses to live, even if it is in direct contradiction with the goals we are trying to reach. If someone who is a high fall risk chooses to keep a throw rug in the hallway, there is not too much we can do about that other than make some recommendations."

Additionally, home healthcare professionals do not have the luxury of every imaginable tool being within reach. "The home health nurse has to be pretty resourceful in a client's home," said Hartman. "There is no supply cabinet, no backup, no one to pass you supplies or assist. You have to rely on what's in your bag or trunk and get creative sometimes."

Connecting with Others

Although Hartman found the one-on-one aspect of home healthcare rewarding, it might not be ideal for other healthcare professionals. If you enjoy the experience of helping as many people as you can every day when you go to work, home healthcare might not be for you. If your favorite part of healthcare is helping patients get back on their feet, home healthcare might not be for you. If you're longing for an opportunity to connect more with your patients, however, the switch could be a good idea.

"This role really checked all my boxes," Hartman said of her switch to home healthcare. "I really missed developing a patient-specific care plan, relying on assessment skills and connecting with people on a deeper level. I also had the opportunity to develop my leadership skills as I moved onto the clinical manager role."

While home healthcare enables healthcare professionals to work closely with individual patients, that doesn't mean they're working alone. Although Hartman admitted that the transition was initially difficult when it came to making tough decisions without a manager on site, she never felt she was working without a team. "In home health, the RN works closely with physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as home health aides, medical social workers and registered dietitians," she explained.

Making a big career change can be daunting, but for Hartman and thousands of other home healthcare professionals, it was well worth it. "Those who are suited to home health discover amazing gratification in seeing their patients thrive in the environment they want to be in most, overcoming great odds and accomplishing amazing things within their homes," Hartman said. "Each patient's life that we touch is made better for it, and that gives me amazing satisfaction."

Sarah Sutherland is a staff writer. Contact: ssutherland@advanceweb.com


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