Home health nurses have an interesting job. On any given day you can perform wound care, venipunctures, and check vital signs during one visit. You'll be chased by dogs, cats, and the occasional pet squirrel. You'll meet people whom you never want to forget and those who you can't wait to hand over to the behavioral health nurse. It takes a patient, kind, secure nurse to get out there, on his or her own, go into strangers' homes, and teach them where they are doing wrong and show them what is right. We've compiled a list of our top 8 must haves for home health nurses. These are listed in no particular order.
1. A flashlight. There's nothing like performing wound care and you can't see. 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. Grab a can of wasp spray 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. You also might get sent out to unsafe areas, you need to be prepared to defend yourself. Your life is more important than the job.
3. An extra pair of scrubs and shoes. You go into your patient's home and he offers you a seat. You sit in something wet, you get up only to see you have just 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 house 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 COPD 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 areas or densely populated areas you may find that 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 an urinal. It's the perfect size, it has a screw on top (no worrying about spills) and the scent, from left over 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 where you just don't have time to stop. Fill a cooler with fruit, sandwiches, water, etc for those busy days.
6. Cash. You know those rural areas listed in #4, welllll, if you happen to find a gas station odds are they only accept cash. Maybe there's a nice cafe or restaurant in that town with only one store, they probably don't have a debit card reader. Rule of thumb is to have enough cash to get yourself a meal and back home. Another rule of thumb would be to 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.
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