What are the services of a visiting nurse agency?

Catherine P. Collette MSN RN, Agency Administrator
Hebrew Health Visiting Nurses/Hebrew Health Hospice

People frequently ask what a visiting nurse agency can do for me. With the increasing numbers of home care agencies people often are unclear of what care is provided by each type of agency. Visiting Nurses Agencies or Home Health Care agencies are licensed by the state and certified by Medicare. Primarily a visiting nurse agency provides skilled care for people who are suffering an illness or recovering from surgery. The services of the agency include nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, social worker and home care aide.

As a person is recovering from an illness or surgery if they are unable to leave home to seek medical attention, their physician may order the care of nurses, therapists and home health aides to help them as they recover. Each person admitted to care is assigned a care team to best meet their needs.

Nurses perform assessments, i.e. provide wound care, specialized care needed by each individual, assess people’s vital signs, their home environment, medications, and provide the education necessary. By working with people to help them better understand their disease process, medications and other factors effecting health and well being they can assist people take control of their health.

Therapists assess people’s functional status and the need for equipment. They work to increase people’s independence and safety in the home. Therapists will perform a variety of assessments to determine what plan of care will improve function, strength, endurance and safety. The therapist will implement a home exercise program that people can follow and use in-between scheduled visits to improve status. Speech therapists work with people who are having difficulty with speech, either the ability to form or find words. A speech therapist can also work with people who have difficulty with chewing and swallowing food. They will teach techniques to improve communication and or improve swallowing.

Social workers provide assessment and intervention to help people with long term planning and connecting people to community resources to meet the needs that will continue after skilled care ends. The social worker can also provide short term counseling to help people come to terms with the impact their health status has on their lives.

Home health aides work with patients who are recovering from an illness to assist them with their personal care needs. The aides work under the supervision of the nurse and therapists and follow the plan of care that has been established for the patient. The aides usually work short term with a patient until they have improved enough to manage bathing, dressing, toileting and other personal care tasks on their own.

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