Due to my daughter Elizabeth’s complex medical needs, she has a pediatric home health nurse. People are very curious about this. What does the nurse do? What is it like having someone in your house all the time? Usually, people are surprised by my answers, but the reality is that our nurses become like family.
There’s a lot of misconception about Pediatric Home Health. I hear from both special needs and non-special needs families that they think having an in-home nurse means that the mom can’t or isn’t taking care of the child anymore.
I hear, “Well, I’d rather take care of my child myself than someone else.” A home health nurse doesn’t take the place of mom. She comes alongside and HELPS mom. I am still Elizabeth’s mom and I still raise her and do a lot of her care. I make the decisions and I speak with the doctors, but it’s also nice to have a nurse there to help, assess, and give me times where I can take a break.
I also hear a lot of jealousy at times from fellow moms. I’ve had people say things like, “Wow, that must be nice.” or “You’re so lucky!” and “I wish I my kids had a nurse!” These words can be very hurtful because it shows how little people know and understand about pediatric home health. All I can think when I hear things like that is that people need to remember that no, I am not “lucky,” they are the lucky ones because their kids are healthy enough to not need an in-home nurse.
Our nurse has seen the best and worst of my family. I’ve cried on her shoulder, I’ve talked over huge decisions with her, and I trust her more than any other person with medical training. We are so blessed to have her and are much better for having her in our lives.
So what does a home health nurse do? The tasks may vary from family to family and each nurse is a bit different as well as each patient. Here is a list of tasks that most nurses do as part of their job in their patient’s home.
Pediatric Home Health Nursing Tasks
G/GJ Tube & Feeds
- Manage all tube feedings.
- Keep the feedings on schedule and deal with any beeping and pump errors.
- Make the formula.
- Change feeding bags.
- Clean bottles, air dry, and put away.
- Check stoma (G-Tube site) and clean.
- Check water amount in the G-Tube balloon once per week.
- Change out G-Button every three months.
- Clean feeding pump and backpack.
- Change out extension once per week.
- Manage and give all medications.
- Clean all syringes and medicine cups. Air dry and put away.
- Have all medications ready to go if we are traveling.
- Call in medication refills as needed.
- Document any medicine changes or new side effects.
- Check medical supplies for G/GJ-Tube and oxygen.
- Order new supplies for G-Tube once per month.
- Order new supplies for oxygen once per month.
- Organize and fill up supplies as needed.
- Help keep a go-bag stocked with supplies.
- Check to make sure there are enough diapers and wipes.
- Change out oxygen tubing every two weeks.
- Wash filter on oxygen compressor, air dry, and put back.
- Make sure oxygen is always at right levels, is still working, and no kinks or holes in the tubing.
- Work on Occupational Therapy techniques per therapist.
- Doing “heavy work” activities for sensory needs.
- Work on Physical Therapy techniques per therapist.
- Work on Feeding Therapy techniques per therapist.
- Allow time for oral attempts to eat and working on trying to get patient to try different foods.
- Work on Speech Therapy techniques per therapist.
- Work on any other therapy techniques per therapists.
- Give a bath every day or every other day.
- Brush hair, teeth, etc.
- Check diaper every few hours or take to the bathroom.
- Check vitals (oxygen, heart rate, oxygen level, respiratory and lungs, and blood pressure).
- Assess patient’s health, and assess when the patient needs to see a doctor or go to the hospital.
- Clean any dishes, cups, or silverware that patient uses.
- Running loads of patient’s laundry.
- Hang, fold, and put away patient’s clean laundry.
- Clean up or help patient clean up toys.
- Organize clothes and clean patient’s room.
- Change sheets and comforter as needed.
- Clean and wipe down medical bed after spills or leaks.
- Empty diaper genie when full.
- Clean and refill patient’s humidifier.
- Attend all doctor appointments during a shift.
- Attend all therapy appointments during a shift.
- Keep medical paperwork and folder organized and updated.
- Help fill out medical paperwork.
- Call pediatrician to get referrals renewed.
- Call doctors as questions or problems arise.
- Help organize medical care between doctors, case manager, and insurance.
- Make/cancel appointments with doctors, specialists, and therapists as needed.
- Document food.
- Document medications.
- Document diapers.
- Document sleep.
- Document appointments.
- Document falls.
- Document skin issues.
I hope this helps many to see and understand what a pediatric home health nurse actually does. Many days I do some of the tasks above, other days I let the nurse do it. It just depends on what’s going on and how busy my day is. Again, many of these tasks vary depending on the child and their health issues are. Some nurses come at night while others come during the day so their tasks will vary based on that.
What about YOU? Has your child ever needed a home health nurse? Would you ever get one for your child?