Nurse Types / Private Duty Nursing
Private duty nursing can be a lucrative option if you want to provide healthcare to patients outside the traditional healthcare setting.
In this nursing role, you provide long-term nursing care to patients. The patients you serve are those who need the extra assistance but prefer to live at home instead of in skilled nursing care facilities.
Patients (and their families) prefer receiving quality care in the comfort of their homes. You can work a few hours a day or 24-hours a day. Some private duty nurses may even live with their patients full-time.
In this article we discuss:
- What is a private duty nurse?
- What do private duty nurses do?
- Where do private duty nurses work?
- What are specific types of private duty nurses?
- How do you become a private duty nurse in 3 steps?
- What are additional requirements of private duty nurses?
- What are the salary and career outlooks for private duty nurses?
What is a private duty nurse?
A private duty nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who works with patients and their families in a non-traditional healthcare setting. Most private duty nurses work in the patient’s home and service one client at a time. They can be self-employed or work part-time or full-time for a home healthcare agency.
When you work in private duty nursing, you can help patients of all age groups or specialize in a specific health condition. The possibilities are endless, making it a versatile nursing career option.
Qualities of a successful private duty nurse
Successful private duty nurses must have excellent attention to detail above all else. Monitoring your patient’s mood and other signs can alert you to medical changes that require additional care.
Other qualities of a successful private duty nurse include:
- Compassion. All nurses must be compassionate and empathetic toward their patients. However, when you work in private duty nursing, you’re the patient’s primary caregiver. Showing compassion builds a strong bond with your patient.
- Patience. When people are unwell, they can be unpleasant at times. They also can get upset at their inability to perform basic tasks, making them lash out at you, their caregiver. Private duty nurses must maintain their composure and remain patient to deliver the best care.
What do private duty nurses do?
Private duty nurses provide one-on-one care tailored to a patient’s unique healthcare conditions and treatment plans. They may work with children who have congenital conditions or elderly patients requiring continuous care.
Some of their common duties include:
- Administering medications
- Assessing changes in the medical status of patients
- Completing patient care documentation
- Creating treatment plans
- Managing chronic illnesses
- Providing hospice care
A day in the life of a private duty nurse
A day in the life of a private duty nurse depends on the patient and their individual needs. If you’re providing your nursing expertise to a chronically ill patient, it can require knowledge of medical devices and prescription medications used to control their condition.
In addition to the list of common duties, you also may attend doctor’s appointments and other outings with your patients to provide ongoing medical support.
Common conditions treated by private duty nurses
In private duty nursing, you may encounter a variety of conditions and illnesses that require your support. Some of the most common medical conditions that warrant a private duty nurse include:
In this nursing role, you might use clinical interventions like G tubes, tracheostomies, and ventilators.
Where do private duty nurses work?
Unlike their nursing counterparts, private duty nurses work in their patients’ homes. In private nursing duty, you also might be contracted to work with patients in hospitals and assisted living facilities.
Regardless of where you work as a private duty nurse, you must maintain standards of service and stay within your nursing scope of practice.
What are specific types of private duty nurses?
Private duty nursing covers the age spectrum and includes home health services for patients with a variety of health conditions. Whether you choose to work part-time or full-time as a private duty nurse, you can opt to specialize in the following types of private duty nursing.
- Chronic health. You can provide personal care for patients with congenital birth defects and other chronic health conditions that require constant medical intervention.
- Gerontology. Private duty nurses in this specialty focus on providing care for elderly patients with a variety of health conditions.
- Hospice. In this private duty nursing role, you provide end-of-life services to patients with terminal conditions.
- Pediatrics. You can choose to work specifically with homebound children who have temporary or permanent health conditions that require home healthcare services.
Closely related fields
Home health aides, sometimes called personal care aides, monitor the conditions of adults and children with chronic conditions or disabilities. They require a high school diploma and completion of a postsecondary non-degree program to train for their work.
How do you become a private duty nurse in 3 steps?
Becoming a private duty nurse takes a few years to complete the required education and obtain the right credentials. Following these three steps can get you started on your new career as a private duty nurse.
Step 1 – Become a registered nurse (RN)
You must become a registered nurse to work as a private duty nurse. Becoming an RN requires either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. You also must pass the NCLEX-RN exam.
Earn a degree
Earning the right degree can help fast-track your private duty nursing career. Most nursing professionals go for the bachelor’s degree because it provides them with additional training beyond the standard associate’s degree.
If you’re already a practicing RN with an ADN, you can go through an RN-to-BSN to continue working while you earn your bachelor’s degree.
It takes four years to earn a BSN if you’re starting from scratch. If you already have an ADN, it can take as little as 18 months to get your BSN.
Pass the NCLEX exam
Regardless of whether you have an ADN or a BSN, you must successfully pass the NCLEX-RN exam before you can work in private duty nursing.
The NCLEX tests your comprehensive knowledge of the nursing skills you learn in an ADN or BSN program. You must complete a minimum of 75 questions correctly to pass. If you fail on your first attempt, you can retake the NCLEX in 45 days.
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Step 2 – Accumulate experience
Most employers prefer RNs with at least two years of bedside experience before hiring them for private duty nursing roles. Private duty nurses can work as independent contractors, meaning they’re self-employed. However, you’ll still need to have adequate experience to be prepared.
Helpful skills and experience
In addition to working bedside as an RN for at least two years, some of the other helpful skills you need to be effective at private duty nursing include:
- Communication. You must clearly explain to your patient and their families treatment plans and any other relevant healthcare information.
- Confidence. You must have self-confidence to catch signs and symptoms that your patient is in medical distress requiring immediate medical attention beyond what you can provide.
- Critical thinking. You might need to think quick on your feet when providing home health services to patients with chronic or serious medical conditions.
Changing specialty to a private duty nurse
One of the most popular switches between nursing specialties is from medical-surgical nursing to private duty nursing. Private duty nurses often need to know how to operate medical devices that assist their home healthcare patients. They gain some of that experience working in a medical-surgical role.
You may require some additional training before you officially make the switch. Look for Incredible Health’s free continuing education classes that focus on the skills needed for your new nursing career.
Step 3 – Obtain certifications
There are no specific certifications for private duty nurses. However, you can obtain other certifications that may make you a more desirable candidate for home health agencies hiring nursing staff.
Some of the most popular certifications for private duty nursing are:
- Advanced Life Support (ALS) Certification from the American Red Cross.
- Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) from the American Red Cross.
- Private Duty Home Care from National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC).
What are additional requirements of private duty nurses?
Like all nursing professionals, you must keep your nursing license and any certifications or other professional credentials current.
RN licenses must be renewed as well. Depending on your state of practice, you may need to renew every year or every four years. Check with your state board of licensing to verify how often you must renew your RN license.
Certifications can range between 2 and 5 years for recertification, depending on the type of certification.
What are the salary and career outlooks for private duty nurses?
Like all nursing professionals, the demand for private duty nurses remains high. The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics expects job growth of 6% between 2021 and 2031.
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Job satisfaction among private duty nurses tends to be high because of the flexibility of their jobs. Private duty nursing jobs also are lower-stress positions than some other RN jobs.
Other factors that can influence whether private duty nurses enjoy their work includes the behavior of their patients and the job autonomy.
Private duty nurses can advance their careers by continuing their education. You can opt for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Each degree program has its advantages. You can use an MSN to pursue leadership roles within nursing, or a DNP to gain more autonomy in your practice. If you have questions about becoming a private duty nurse, you can talk with other experienced nurses to gain insight.
A private duty nurse works with patients in their homes and provides patient’s basic, daily needs and help with chronic health problems.
A private duty nurse provides many vital services to their clients. Some of these include managing chronic illnesses, administering medications, creating treatment plans, and caring for hospice patients.
Private duty nurses make $55,518 per year on average, or $26.69 per hour.
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- Advanced Life Support (ALS) Certification. redcross.org. Accessed October 19, 2022.
- Congenital. genome.gov. Accessed October 19, 2022.
- Home Health and Personal Care Aides. bls.gov. Accessed October 19, 2022.
- NAHC Private Duty Home Care Certification. nahc.org. Accessed October 19, 2022.
- Private Duty Nurse Salary. zippia.com. Accessed November 9, 2022.
- Red Cross Nurse Assistant Training. redcross.org. Accessed October 19, 2022.
- Registered Nurses. bls.gov. Accessed October 19, 2022.
- Traumatic brain injury. mayoclinic.org. Accessed October 19, 2022.
- What is ALS? als.org. Accessed October 19, 2022.