Friday, January 13, 2017

January 13: The Travels of a Home Health Nurse

The fence where I often turn around.
Steps: 8,351

Activity: Small loop with the dogs.

Book: Half Earth by Edward Wilson

Weight: 3.9 pounds lost since the New Year.

I stayed up too late reading Half Earth, plus it was cold (57 in the house this morning), so I didn't get my ambitious start of the day. A quick walk on the short loop with the dogs (a little over a mile) and then off to see patients. I drove to Chico (32 miles), Oroville (23 miles), and then up to Paradise (20 miles) before ending my circuit at home (18 miles). That's a pretty easy day driving as my territory is as large as some states in New England.

At least it stopped raining today. We get a couple days of sun before the clouds and rain returns. I hate working Home Health in the rain. Drive in rain; out of car to see patient; back to car in rain, repeat five or six times. Your feet end up being soaked and it is always uncomfortable to enter a client's house when you are soaked to the bone.

But alas, it is Friday. One of my New Year's Resolutions was to not see any patients on a Saturday. We have had two Saturdays so far and I'm going to break the Resolution on both of them. I will have to see a couple in Chico tomorrow. In Home Health, you aren't paid by the hour. You are paid a set price per visit and also the type of visit (start of care, evaluation, recertification, etc). So if you don't see patients, you don't get paid. It's not like at the hospital, where I'd be in the Emergency Room and I'd get paid the same whether I saw 8 patients or none.

In many ways, Home Health is much harder on a person. The travel is hard. The unpredictability of the visits is hard. The working by the visit is hard. It is a lonely job that doesn't offer much in camaraderie with your coworkers. And when you get hungry? There is always the temptation of the drive thru. Sometimes you do it just to have some interaction with someone who isn't a client. The hours of charting is harder than working in a hospital. And the pay is much lower. Anything I do outside of a visit, like receiving a phone call from a doctor, or talking to a family member, is unpaid. I often say that working Home Health is more of a calling than a paid profession. A friend of mine told me before I started this job that it is hard to make a living in Home Health. That's true. It takes a toll. Just the hours of driving and sitting take a toll.

So why do it? The autonomy and freedom to organize my own day is great. And Home Health tends to be a "Sunset" job for nurses who are tired of working in higher stress environments. That's why I do it; I intend to retire as a Home Health Nurse.

Despite working tomorrow, I plan on getting a longer, more strenuous hike in with the dogs. Gotta get ready for hiking the Red Rocks of Sedona.

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