The image of a nurse bustling through hospital wards caring for a cadre of patients is a modern archetype. However, this is not the only option for people with nursing credentials. Private duty nursing -- caring for just one patient at a time -- is a growing field that offers a very different experience from traditional hospital and nursing home care.
Nature of the Work
A private duty nurse works for one individual. Some are employed by nursing agencies, but their assignment will be with one patient at a time. They might work one shift along with a nursing team or be an individual who is paid to be on call for the individual needing care. In general, they perform the same maintenance and care duties as a hospital nurse -- just in a home environment and for one person at a time.
Licensed practical nurses complete a 9- to 12-month course and must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for LPNs before applying for a state license. LPNs are qualified for basic bedside care and to provide comfort to their patients. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean salary of LPNs working in private duty assignments for 2010 was $42,550 annually, which is just over $2,000 dollars above the mean salary for LPNs as a whole.
A Registered Nurse completes a 4-year program followed by testing and licensing to qualify for more duties. They are qualified for blood work, administering medication and close observation of patients. The BLS reports the mean annual salary of RNs working in private duty assignments for 2010 as $63,850, which is just under $1,000 per year below the mean salary for RNs as a whole.
The BLS expects job opportunities for both levels of qualifications to grow at 33 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is three times the growth expected for the job market as a whole and 150 percent the growth expected for nursing care as a whole. They credit this rapid increase primarily to the fact that people are living longer lives and have greater need for healthcare during those later years. They attribute the extra increase in home health care positions to a growing number of adults with functional disabilities who can survive due to improvements in medical technology.