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Career Story: Community Health Nurse

Community Health Nurse

Job Title: Community Health Nurse

Type of Company: I work as a nurse in the community. I go into people's homes after acute hospitalizations and get them used to being home, set up meds, and care for dressings.

Education: BSN, Nursing

Previous Experience: I worked as a certified nurse's assistant before college. During nursing school, I worked at New England Medical Center and later, after graduating, I worked at a rehabilitation facility. Now I work as a visiting RN for a Boston-area hospital.

Job Tasks: Community health nurses help extend hospital-based care into people's homes and the community. On a normal day I have six or seven clients whom I see in their homes. Prior to going into a patient's home I read their chart, which gives me their diagnosis, past medical history, medications, and specialized care instructions. Our clients have a vast array of problems. Some are diabetics, others are cardiac patients, still others are recovering from surgery.

When I go into a home I take the patient's vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and respiratory rate). I then go over the patient' medication list and make sure they are taking their meds as the doctor prescribed. Some patients require specialized care, anything from an injection or to change of dressing. I am always assessing the patient for infection and for home safety. The goal of my job is to get patients back to their previous states of health and make sure they can do that safely in their homes.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is having a tremendous amount of independence. I make my own schedule and therefore I am in total control of my time. Because of this my kids have never been in a daycare setting and I always make it to school and sporting events. Because I work alone, I really need to have excellent assessment skills as I have no one else to fall back on. Sometimes that can be very scary.

Job Tips: Community health nursing is an excellent field. Obviously you need to go to a good nursing program. I would recommend a program that offers a bachelor's degree. Nursing is very competitive now and most hospitals are looking at bachelor-prepared nurses only. I would also recommend that you get your feet wet working on a medical/surgical floor to get your baseline experience. As I have said, community health nursing is a very independent position. So you have to truly be terrific with your assessment skills.

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