Career Spotlight: Nursing Home Staff Nurse

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Nursing homes provide high-level care for patients who are elderly, disabled, or unable to perform routine daily tasks for themselves, or who may need supervision or monitoring.

Nurse holding elderly patient mans hand

Despite a grim reputation in the past, modern nursing homes operate with the comfort of the residents in mind. Staff nurses, including those who graduate from an RN-to-BSN program such as the one at Duquesne University, play an important role in both patient care and nursing home operations.

Inside The Modern Nursing Home

Nursing homes typically focus on patients who need long-term assistance, as opposed to rehabilitation or skilled nursing centers that cater to short-term patients such as those who need care after a stroke or a fall. For many, a nursing home is their final residence or the last home before hospice care.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), 15,600 nursing homes were in operation as of 2014 (the latest year for which figures are available). The homes provided 1.7 million beds and cared for some 1.4 million patients. Those numbers represent just over 2.6 percent of the 65+ population and 9.5 percent of the people over 85, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Nursing Home Data Compendium for 2015 (the latest study available, which mirrored the 2014 NCHS statistics).

Some nursing homes are set up on a hospital model with nursing stations on each floor, according to information on MedlinePlus.com, a website produced by the National Library of Medicine. Others have a more homey feel with amenities such as libraries, craft classes, chapels, and social events. Residents have privacy, couples often can stay together, families can come by at their convenience, and pets or therapy animals are sometimes allowed to visit.

The work of the nursing home, however, goes on around the clock.

Duties In A Nursing Home

Under federal law, nursing homes are required to have an RN on duty at least eight hours a day, seven days a week, making the nursing role crucial to the efficient operation of the facilities. The job can be rewarding, but the specific needs of the patient population may require additional skills and proficiencies. For instance, in addition to being kind but firm with both patients and families, nurses need to be calm and efficient in stressful situations.

“Patients may be unable to communicate or may be combative or angry,” notes the article, “The Role Of A Nurse In A Nursing Home” on CareerTrend.com, a career website for nurses. “Family members may have strained relationships with the patient or with nursing home staff. The facility may be short-staffed (especially on weekends or major holidays), yet all patient care duties must be completed.”

Nurses who excel in this specialized field are able to think independently, perform assessments on patients who may not be able to speak or respond, and communicate well with doctors, according to the article, “50 Best Nursing Careers” on the nursing student website Top RN to BSN.

“Persons who, either through age or disabilities, require nursing care in a nursing home also require a great deal of patience and understanding,” the article continues. “Communication with persons whose ability to communicate has been lost through illness or accident may be a major challenge. Demonstrating caring and compassion when it is not returned or understood may be difficult.”

In addition to possessing high levels of empathy and serenity, nursing home staff nurses are expected to handle many of the standard clinical protocols, including:

  • Taking vitals and evaluating patients.
  • Administering medications.
  • Drawing blood if no phlebotomist is available.
  • Providing wound care.
  • Inserting catheters or nasogastric tubes.
  • Providing personal care such as meals or baths, depending on the availability of nurse assistants (CNAs).
  • Documenting treatments, medications, and procedures to comply with state or federal regulations as well as facility guidelines.
  • Answering family members’ questions and explaining details of their loved one’s care.
  • Consulting with or reporting to doctors about patients’ conditions and suggesting or making changes when necessary.

Salary And Job Outlook

The median salary for a nursing home staff nurse was just over $57,800 in late September 2017, according to Salary.com. Wages can vary based on educational level and location and generally range from $54,475 to $61,300 annually.

The employment outlook for nurses, in general, is good, and as the population ages, nurses should see increasing opportunities to work with seniors.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) foresees 16 percent growth for registered nurses through 2024.

“However,” the website notes, “the supply of new nurses entering the labor market has increased in recent years. This increase has resulted in competition for jobs in some areas of the country. Generally, registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN) will have better job prospects than those without one.”

About Duquesne University’s Online RN-BSN Degree Program

Duquesne University’s online RN-BSN program can prepare nurses for a range of positions, including that of a nursing home staff nurse. The program is 100 percent online, allowing students to pursue their degrees on their own schedule. The university is nationally recognized for excellence in nursing education, with faculty members who work to ensure students are studying the most current practices. U.S. News & World Report ranks Duquesne among the top nursing schools in the nation.