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Angels on the road: Home health in rural communities

Home health travel nursing in rural communities

One word that is synonymous with travel nursing is variety. Travel nursing affords a wealth of diversity — through locations, colleagues, patients, facilities, and experiences. Another great opportunity to broaden one’s healthcare experience is to work in hospice and home care.

After 20 years of practicing in a hospital, veteran nurse Ann Davis made the switch to home health travel nursing and has been richly rewarded by the experience for more than 17 years.

“What I enjoy most about home health is that you get to see your patients through,” says Davis. “You get to see who they are, how they progress, and what their needs are when they are home. You have to go in with a loving heart. You have to go in knowing that you have a job to do, but also understand the importance of gaining that person’s trust. We’re going into their home; we’re not on our turf, we’re on their turf. And my job is to make it safe and comfortable, and give them all the resources they need to stay in their home.”

Davis has been travel nursing with RNnetwork for more than three years. In that time, she has primarily focused her attention on medically underserved rural communities in Arkansas.

Making a significant impact

Within the scope of home health, rural communities face unique challenges. According to a 2014 study, rural home health patients are more likely than their urban counterparts to be severely ill or in a fragile condition, and many have more risk factors for hospitalization. Further, rural areas face high turnover rates among rural healthcare workers, and high poverty rates, population loss, and healthcare facility closures can all have a significant impact on home health care.

Davis feels drawn to these areas for their beauty, nature, recreation, and space — but most especially, for the impact she can have on individual patients.

“I’ve been in many, many homes where I may be the only visitor they have for the week and that’s so sad,” Davis says. “Because they have such little contact with other people, I think what we do is a bit more meaningful for them. They appreciate us coming out that far to see them. We let every patient know we are available to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It’s the same in urban areas, but in the rural areas, it means a lot to patients.”

Rural home health travel nurse Ann Davis
Ann Davis, home health travel nurse

You’ve got to get it done

Another benefit to rural home health travel nursing is the opportunity to develop and diversify one’s clinical skills. This is true of home health in any area, but can be especially poignant in rural settings.

“Home health in rural communities has helped me develop my skills — and I think a big reason for that is that you’re on your own out there, and you’ve got to get it done,” says Davis. “In an office, there are sometimes specialized roles — a certain person may deal with a certain piece of equipment, and you never work on it. I really feel like our range of skill is broadened when we’re out there by ourselves and doing so many things, not just one specialty.”

Being prepared for anything

Home health care in rural settings can also come with a unique set of considerations. The territory can be vast and widespread, requiring much more time and driving to reach patients’ homes. Poor infrastructure and fewer routes and roads can also make the commute more vulnerable to weather, such as flooding and snow.

“Recently, I was on assignment just outside of Conway, Arkansas, and they had a flood just before I arrived,” Davis says. “I drove more than 30 miles down one road, only to discover the water was up over the road and I had to turn back and go another way. I was out in the country and did not know the area at all. I ended up going down three different roads and finally went to the top of the mountain and around the river to get to my patient.”

Davis also spends careful time and planning to ensure she has the right resources and equipment with her at each visit, as access to such resources can be especially limited in rural areas.

The rewards are worth it

While she recognizes rural home health may not be for everybody, she urges any travel nurse considering a rural home health travel nursing assignment to give it a solid chance.

“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve found people are just needing help,” says Davis. “Some of the crankiest and hardest patients from the outset — it’s just because they’ve never had anybody come in and care for them, and they don’t realize what you’re there to do. Those are the patients I love the most by the time I get through taking care of them.”

Home health travel nursing in rural communities can be rewarding, both personally and professionally. For more information, check out today’s home health travel nursing opportunities, or give us a call at 800.866.0407.

About the author

Allison Riley

Allison Riley is a public relations professional with more than 10 years experience in healthcare and corporate communications. She lives in New York City with her better half and two wonderful daughters. She and her girls are currently contending for world's slowest recorded stair climb to a fifth-floor apartment, and she enjoys writing so she can just finish her sentence already.


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