8 Things Home Health Nurses Should Never Leave Home Without
By: Portia Wofford
Home health nurses have quite an interesting job. On any given day a nurse can perform wound care, venipunctures, and check vital signs during a visit, while simultaneously listening to a patient's favorite television series playing in the background. Being chased by dogs, cats, and the occasional pet squirrel is a common occurrence. You'll meet people whom you never want to forget and those whom you can't wait to refer to the behavioral health nurse. It takes a kind, knowledgeable, secure nurse to get out there, on his or her own, go into strangers' homes, and educate them on the "right way" to do things. I was a home health nurse for four years. I’ve compiled a list of my top 8 must haves for home health nurses. These are listed in no particular order. (Yes, I have used them all!)
1. A flashlight.
There's nothing like performing wound care...in the dark. Patients may have little to no light, in their homes. Having a flashlight can save you.
2. Flea and wasp spray.
Imagine going into a patient's home and being covered with fleas when you leave. Grab some flea spray and spray the bottom of your pants and shoes before entering and after leaving the patient's home. You may want to consider grabbing a can of wasp or pepper spray, (if it's legal in your jurisdiction and approved by your agency). Why? You never know when a territorial dog might attack. There’s also the possibility that you are sent to unsafe areas. You need to be prepared to defend yourself. Your life is more important than a job.
3. An extra pair of scrubs and shoes.
You go into your patient's home, and he or she offers you a seat. You sit in something wet. You get up only to realize you have sat in urine. It happens! You have no idea the condition of these homes until you enter them. Houses can be (and some will be) disgusting. Cat urine. Dog feces. Vomit. Blood. You name it. Make it a habit to keep extra scrubs, in your car, and an extra pair of sneakers or shoe covers for those houses who have things, on the floors, that only a black light will uncover. You'll also have those who smoke. Your next patient may have respiratory diseases (such as COPD or asthma), and you'd want to change out of that scrub top that smells like an ashtray.
4. An empty liquid washing detergent bottle.
Yes, you read that right. Driving in rural or densely populated areas, you may find your next patient is 45 minutes away, and there is no gas station, in site. You get the urge to go. You've been holding it for hours. A simple trick is taking that empty Gain or Cheer bottle and using it as a urinal. It's a perfect size, has a screw on top (no worrying about spills), and the scent -from leftover detergent - will mask the odor.
5. A cooler with ice, water, and snacks.
Eating on the go is going to happen. There will be days you just don't have time to stop. Fill a cooler with ice, fruit, sandwiches, water, etc. for those busy days.
Remember those rural areas listed in #4? Well, if you happen to find a gas station, odds are it only accepts cash. Maybe there's a nice cafe or restaurant in that small town with only one store. It probably won't have a debit card reader. Rule of thumb is to have enough cash to get a meal and back home. Another rule of thumb? Fill up your gas tank before leaving home.
7. Organizational tools.
Your car is your office. It should contain folders, computer (or tablet) and cell phone battery chargers, pens, calendars, notebook paper for notes, and a map (sometimes GPS won't pick up your location).
8. A whistle.
For safety. You don't know the area, the people, or the animals. Enough said.
Are you a home health nurse? What's on your list.
Portia Wofford is a nurse, millennial strategist, healthcare writer, entrepreneur, and micro-influencer. Chosen as a brand ambassador or collaborative partner for various organizations, Wofford strives to empower nurses by offering nurses resources for career development--while providing organizations with tools to close generational gaps within their nursing staff. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for her latest.
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