There are many ways to explore the field of nursing while in high school. Check out your school or local library to read books on nursing careers. You can also arrange to talk with your high school guidance counselor, school nurse, and even local public health nurses. Consider visiting a hospital to observe nurses at work and to talk with personnel. You may be able to work as a volunteer. Other volunteer work experiences may be found with the Red Cross or community health services.
To explore the career of home health care and hospice nursing, try contacting local agencies and programs that provide home care services and request information on employment guidelines or training programs. Home health organizations may sponsor open houses to enlighten the community to the services they provide. This could allow you to meet the staff involved in hiring and program development and to learn about job opportunities. Finally, ask if it may be possible to accompany a home health care or hospice nurse on a home visit.
Home health care nurses are often assigned to patients after the patients are discharged from a hospital or after they have had outpatient procedures. They provide follow-up health care on a regular basis and establish a one-on-one patient/nurse relationship. Some home health care nurses also work with patients who have acute, ongoing illnesses such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
Because hospice or home health care nurses often work without direct supervision from a doctor, they must have experience before joining this specialized field. These nurses must be able to work independently, perform basic medical procedures, have knowledge of different diseases, and be able to administer treatments to patients.
Although they need to be able to work alone, nurses in this specialty must also know how to work as a member of a team. A variety of hospice personnel, such as doctors, social workers, chaplains, volunteers, counselors, and aides, become involved with the patient as the illness progresses. Home health care and hospice nurses work with all aspects and ages of the population. Their duties vary greatly depending on their patients, their illnesses, and the care or support they need.
A large part of the job requires nurses to listen and understand the patient's needs and emotions. Hospice patients in the final stages of life may need to speak with counselors or clergy to deal with their emotions, or patients may need to explain to a nurse their wishes if they no longer respond to treatment. Working with the hospice team, a hospice nurse can maintain the best quality of life for a patient while helping them remain comfortable and free of pain. While working with patients at the end of their lives may seem sad, many hospice nurses find their jobs rewarding.
In addition to working with patients, an important part of the nurse's job is paperwork. As with almost all health care professions today, nurses spend a great deal of time keeping records and charts and documenting the services they provide in order to meet insurance, government, and Medicare requirements.