When you see a hospital nurse they are really busy, usually very serious, and more than a little bit harried. Home care nurses, on the other hand, are always smiling. Why is that?

1. The Independence
No one is looking over my shoulder. That may sound like a bad thing when you’re a new nurse, but it wasn’t. I may not have done things perfectly right on the first try, but I figured things out. Coming to the solution on my own was very satisfying and exciting as a new nurse. Eight years later, I still enjoy the autonomy.

2. The Flexibility
I don’t just see patients in their homes. I have done new employee orientation, home health aide classes, chart audits, quality control, community lectures, staff education, and competencies. My schedule is flexible. This means that I can use a bathroom or eat lunch (which nurses get to do that?). It also means that I could schedule doctor appointments for myself or my kids and plan my patients around that appointment . . .or my kids’ school play, a teacher conference, or a trip to the mechanic to get an oil change. How do other working mothers get things done?

3. The Patients
I can sit with my patients and talk about the photographs on their walls, the numbers on their arm, what they’re cooking on the stove, the work they did “before,” the origin of their last name, their garden, their dog, their paintings, or their piano. Of course, I discuss their medical history, but only after we have made friends. Why would I do it any other way? If I do a good job and I ask the right questions, most of my home and health assessment has been completed before I ask any of the questions on my nursing assessment.

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4. Their Stories
My patients share the stories of their lives with me. Stories of immigration, illness, happiness, and tragedy. They trust me with the stories that make them who they are. These stories don’t just shape their lives, they shape mine as well.

5. The Money
The money is comparable to hospital nursing and the opportunity for overtime is usually available depending on the type of agency you work for. Even if your agency does not have overtime availability, you can work for other home care agencies per diem while you are working full-time for another.

6. The Nursing
I have treated a wide variety of health issues. No matter what you may hear, home care IS real nursing. Wounds, staples, trachs, PEGs, foleys, sutures, vents, amputations, and many more.

7. The Respect
I have always been proud to be a nurse. Even when the work is hard and the time is short, I have always known that I am serving humankind when they are the most needy. My patients are always happy to see me. How could any other profession be more important or satisfying?

8. The Fun
This is hard to explain if you aren’t a nurse, but take my word for it. Getting the foley in on the first try, getting the IV in on the first try, healing a wound, teaching someone a new skill, seeing a patient get better, or bringing comfort to a patient or family member. Because my relationship with the client is long-term I often get to see the “whole picture.” The amazing thrill I get when I help someone, whether it was something big or small, is almost unmatched in my personal or professional life. I am often so excited that I want to shout from the rooftops.

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9. The Experiences
I have met so many different people living completely different lives than my own. It is easy to live life in your small circle of friends and family and not realize that there are so many types of people on this planet that you may never get to meet or experience. I am so grateful for what I have. When I see how terrible peoples’ lives are, it is impossible not to gain perspective.

10. The Stories
I have a story for every disease you have ever heard of and several you haven’t. Want to scare your kid into wearing a helmet? Not using drugs? Wearing a seat belt? Using sunscreen? Yup, got a terrible story for every scenario. Need a feel good story? Got that too. Miraculous recoveries? Sure thing. Just let me know what you’re in the mood for and I will provide the entertainment or the inspiration, whatever you’re looking for. Because I am in the patient’s home I am privy to details of their illness that may not be otherwise shared with an overworked hospital nurse who is in a rush to see her next patient.

Laura Silverstein, RN, BSN, WCC
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