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Career Story: Visiting Nurse

Visiting Nurse

Job Title: Nurse

Type of Company: My company provides in-home nursing care for people who have ongoing problems, or have just been released from rehab, hospitals or nursing homes.

Education: BS

Previous Experience: I most recently worked at a urologist's office; before that I had a job in a hospital emergency room as a secretary.

Job Tasks: As a nurse I am responsible for assessing my patients, reporting to the doctor any findings that are unusual, encouraging patients to take preventive measures and teaching them how to take better care of themselves. This may include how to take their medicines, side effects to watch out for and food that they should (or should not) eat with medication.

My typical day in home care starts with going to the office at 8 and getting a list of patients who need to be seen that day. I read about them in their charts and try to find out if another nurse has met them, and gather his or her personal perspective impressions. Something out of the ordinary like a difficult family member, or a problem dog can be important. I then think of all the things I will need to look for when I get there, based on the diagnosis. For example, a lot of our patients have had hip surgery. They are then put on blood thinners. I need to look for a dressing, and check the wound for signs of infection (redness, fever, swelling, or yellow smelly drainage). I also want to teach the patient that when on blood thinners, they need to be extra cautious not to cut themselves, especially when shaving.

After I arrive at a patient's home, I take his vital signs -- his blood pressure, pulse, temperature and respiration -- and ask if he's in pain, has been going to the bathroom OK and if he's been eating regularly (at least three healthy meals every day). Usually from these answers I can tell if something is wrong, and if it is bad enough to go to the hospital or doctor's office for a checkup.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: Although I love being a nurse, it was very difficult going to school. You have to be good in math. You have to have a love of people, sincerely want to help, give up a lot of your weekends, and sometimes nights and holidays too. There are always going to be jobs for nurses.

Job Tips: Start your experience in high school or soon after. Experience is golden. There are certified nurse's assistant (CNA) jobs that allow you to work in nursing homes, and then go on to be a med tech or LNA. The EMT jobs and paramedics offer exciting environments where you are still working with the less fortunate in society. Some students work as EMT's while in nursing school. As a home health aide you really are learning by watching. The better your language skills are, the better also. There are many reports to be written. Communications skills are important.

Additional Thoughts: Don't be afraid. If you are a good person, with strong study skills you can do this. If you are willing to work hard, be patient; ultimately you will get ahead. The medical professionals are a serious group of people, and they really don't put up with show-offs or lazy people. If you like science, there are huge amounts of research that are being done, such as finding a cure for cancer. Try it; you might like it.

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