How to Become a Private Duty Nurse
Private duty nursing, often confused with other types of home health nursing, is an evolving nursing specialty. With an ongoing increase in the aging population, more and more families are hiring private-duty nurses to deliver consistent, high-quality nursing care for their loved ones.
We talked to Jessica Bissen, a private duty nurse in the Omaha area, about the career to get a firsthand account of what it’s like. Jessica had worked in a variety of nursing specialties but found her calling in private-duty nursing. “You really get to know the patient as a person, and they become family,” she says. Read on to find out if becoming a private duty nurse might be your calling!
What is a Private Duty Nurse?
A private duty nurse is a type of registered nurse who works for an individual patient and/or family. Unlike home care nursing, these nurses are not shift workers. Most will live with the family in their home, and you may work long hours. Your employment might only be for the duration of the illness or for a predetermined set of time.
Private duty nurses can be hired by an individual patient, their family, or an agency. Typically, the salary is paid by the individual.
The goal of private duty care is to help maintain a client’s ability to stay in their home comfortably and offer respite care to other caregivers.
What Do Private Duty Nurses Do?
Private duty nurses often become an extension of the family when caring for their patients. Their responsibilities primarily include full care and support of the patient but they often perform tasks that improve the well-being of the family as a whole.
As a child’s private duty nurse, Bissen says that she becomes their teacher, their aid, and their friend. She writes down homework assignments and helps them with that work.
“We are their support system. I love to be able to connect with them beyond their medical needs. I can tell what their personality is saying each and every day. I feel those emotions with them.”
Bissen also sees the children’s families at least once or twice a day. They do talk about the child, but a private duty nurse also finds out what is going on in their lives.
Maintaining professional boundaries is important. But it can be a struggle because so much time is spent with the patient and family. They invite the nurses to birthday parties, holiday celebrations and more because they become a part of the family.
More specific job responsibilities include,
- Monitoring medical status changes of patients
- Providing various daily living activities
- Managing chronic illness
- Offering wound care
- Collaborating with other healthcare professionals including therapy services
- Educating patients, families, and caregivers
- Keeping records of treatment plans and progress
- Developing daily plans of care for patients
- Tracking oxygen levels, using heart monitors, or other advanced in-home equipment
- Personal medical care including nail trimming, oral cavity cleaning, and bowel program supervision
- Administering medication including injections, inhalants, eye drops, oral, and topical medications
- Providing range of motion exercises
- Monitoring diet
- Homemaking services
- Recognizing early warning signs of health issues
- Creating and implementing care and recovery plans
- Administering medications and handling medical devices
- Providing hospice care
- Performing medical procedures
How to Become a Private Duty Nurse
To become a private duty nurse, you’ll need to complete the following steps:
Step 1: Attend Nursing School
You’ll need to earn either an ADN or a BSN from an accredited nursing program in order to take the first steps to becoming a registered nurse. ADN-prepared nurses may want to take the additional step of completing their BSN degree
Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN
Become a Registered Nurse by passing the NCLEX examination.
Step 3: Gain Experience at the Bedside
Before becoming a private duty nurse, individuals should have bedside experience which can vary depending on the agency. Most require roughly two to three years of relevant bedside experience. This can be in medical-surgical nursing, intensive care, or pediatrics depending on the patient population caring for.
Step 4: Earn Your Certification
There is no specific certification for private duty nurses; however, many will have certifications in either medical-surgical nursing or critical care nursing. Obtaining an advanced certification can help increase marketability to potential clients.
Critical Care (Adult) Registered Nurse (CCRN): The CCRN is offered by The Association of Critical Care Nurses. This is a very common certification for adult critical care nurses.
Private Duty Nurse Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a registered nurse in 2021 is $77,600 per year or $37.31 per hour, but conditions in your area may vary. The BLS does not differentiate between different specialties of nursing, but Glassdoor.com reports the average annual salary for a private duty nurse is $76,638.
Highest-Paying States for Private Duty Nurses
As of 2023, the highest-paying states for private duty nurses that have reported hourly salaries, according to Ziprecruiter, are:
- New York - $83,135 per year
- Idaho - $80,00
- California - $79,354
- New Hampshire - $76,904
- Vermont - $76,058
Where Can Private Duty Nurses Work?
Private duty nurses generally work at a patient’s private residence; however, they can be found in hospitals or assisted living facilities.
Furthermore, they will accompany their patient to all medical appointments or outings on any given day which may include school, sporting events, and family functions.
What is the Job Outlook for Private Duty Nurses?
According to the BLS, there's a projected job growth for nurses of 6% from 2021 to 2031. With the increased need in private home care nurses and an aging population, the need for private nurses will continue to increase.
What Are the Continuing Education Requirements for a Private Duty Nurse?
Generally, in order for an individual to renew their RN license, they will need to fill out an application, complete a specific number of CEU hours, and pay a nominal fee.
Each state has specific requirements and it is important to check with the board of nursing prior to applying for license renewal. If the RN license is part of a compact nursing license, the CEU requirement will be for the state of permanent residence. Furthermore, some states require CEUs related to child abuse, narcotics, and/or pain management.
A detailed look at Continuing Nurse Education hours can be found here.
Resources for Private Duty Nurses
- Private Duty Homecare Association
- Home Healthcare Nurses Association
- National Association for Home Care & Hospice
- Private Care Association
- Home Care Association of America
- International Home Care Nurses Organization
- Visiting Nurse Associations of America
- American Association of Homecare
- American Nurses Association
What is considered private duty nursing?
- Private duty nursing is the one-on-one specialized care of a patient that is unable to care for themself. An individual or family will typically hire a private duty nurse to care and perform all aspects of care for a patient. Private duty nursing is a long-term care solution for individuals that have advanced medical and nursing needs.
What is the difference between private duty nursing and home health care nursing?
- Home health care nursing is when a nurse is hired by a physician for a very specific task or care. This visit may be to check vital signs or clean a wound. Home health care nurses will carry out doctor’s orders and then see another patient. Private duty nurses, on the other hand, are typically hired by a family, are not under the direction of a physician. They act as a total caregiver to an individual. Private duty nurses often work with the elderly population and perform individual and continuous skilled care.
How do you become a private duty nurse?
- To become a private duty nurse, you must first become an RN. Gaining several years of bedside nursing experience is essential as private duty nurses are often responsible for all aspects of care of a patient including activities of daily living, feedings, medication administration, educating, and performing skilled nursing tasks.