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Outpatient nursing is a career option for registered and licensed practical nurses who prefer to care for people who are not currently admitted to a hospital. With this type of nursing career, nurses focus on providing short-term care to people who are recovering from an illness or injury, end of life care for terminal patients, or assisting inpatients who are about to be released from the hospital. Here are a few examples of outpatient nursing positions that may be a viable option for many nurses.
One of the most basic of all outpatient nursing employment opportunities is in the area of home health services. Here, the nurse becomes a full-time employee of a home health agency and is assigned a roster of clients to visit in their homes on a regular basis. It is not unusual for a home health nurse to visit each patient anywhere from three to five times per week. Depending on regulations that apply locally, the nurse assists the patient with taking medication as prescribed by a physician, checks the vital signs of the patient, and communicates with physicians if anything seems to be impeding the patient’s recovery.
Outpatient nursing in a hospice environment is very similar to home health, with one important distinction. Hospice is usually concerned with providing end of life care to terminal patients. Within this environment, the outpatient nurse seeks to assist the patient in being as comfortable as possible by performing routine medical tasks, handling the administration of medications, and even working with physicians to fill prescriptions for the patient. Outpatient nursing in a hospice environment is not for everyone, but can be a very rewarding job for nurses who wish to help the last days of a patient be as pleasant and as comfortable as possible.
Another form of outpatient nursing is known as private duty nursing. With this type of nursing position, the nurse is assigned to a specific patient. For a set number of hours per day, the nurse attends to the needs of the patient in his or her care. This often includes changing bandages, checking vital signs, administering medication and generally working with other healthcare professionals to allow the homebound patient to enjoy the highest quality of life possible. Unlike hospice or home health employment, a private duty nurse may be assigned by a staffing agency, or enter into a direct contract with the patient or the patient’s family.
There are other types of outpatient nursing opportunities found in health clinics and other private care environments. In general, nurses working in these types of situations provide care to patients who do not require hospitalization. As with all types of nursing situations, working in outpatient nursing does require licensing by the appropriate agency and jurisdiction.