01 Mar A Day in the Life: Home Health Visit Nurse
Bronwynn Watson has been a nurse for 12 years. Without reservation, she says her most rewarding work has been that of her last three years as a Visit Nurse for Olympic Medical Home Health.
“I feel like I’ve helped people in Home Health better than any other role I’ve worked in,” Watson says. “This is the role where you can help the most.”
Where there is a home-bound patient in Clallam County who needs medical care, there is a Visit Nurse. From Neah Bay on the west end to Diamond Point on the east end and all points in between, Visit Nurses travel to personal residences to bring patient-centered care to individuals who are unable to leave their homes to receiving nursing, wound or rehabilitative care they need.
The Home Health department here is really fun. Everyone is supportive of each other, so even though you’re on your own (during patient visits), you have a supportive management and colleague group that you’re working with. - Bronwynn Watson
“As a visit nurse, you are the eyes and ears for the medical team who rely on home health assessments to stay closely updated on patient status,” Watson says.
The staff of Olympic Medical Home Health includes nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, medical social workers, wound care specialists and more. Home Health meets the medical needs of homebound patients right where they are.
“I didn’t know about Home Health and how amazing it was until I actually worked there, and it’s my favorite nursing job I’ve ever had,” Watson says. “It’s made me a stronger nurse.”
A typical workday for a Visit Nurse begins by reviewing their upcoming schedule to prep supplies and plan their visits based on the proximity of each appointment to the next, as well as patients’ preferred schedules. After confirming appointments by phone and reviewing charts and doctors’ orders, Visit Nurses set out to make their home visits. Ranging from routine to complex, home visits can be anywhere from 30-to-90 minutes in duration, including anything from lab draws and wound care to medication management and disease process education. At times, nurses make emergent assessments and contact 911 or the patient’s physician’s office in real-time to address concerns. During home visits, Visit Nurses update medical charts. After returning to the office or their own homes, Visit Nurses complete their charting, send any necessary updates to physicians’ offices and update the case manager who manages the care plan of those patients.
Visit Nurses care for patients across the spectrum, from those who suffer injury and require in-home physical therapy to those who have chronic illness.
“You have plenty of time one-on-one to really get to know people and to really help determine how to help them the best,” Watson said.
If you want a challenge in nursing and you’re interested in rural, community health, it’s the perfect job. - Bronwynn Watson
Olympic Medical Home Health Visit Nurses must have a current Washington State Registered Nurse license, an associate’s degree and at least one year of experience in home health, acute or long-term care.
In Watson’s perspective, Visit Nurses have to be able combine their clinical expertise with innovative problem-solving in order to provide clinical care for patients, while working in a constantly changing environment as Visit Nurses move from one home to the next.
“You have to be creative and feel comfortable on your own making choices,” Watson says. “…Being able to creatively apply the nursing process.”
Home Health has implemented processes such as patient pre-screening, personal protective equipment for all home visits and additional follow-up with patients who contract COVID or COVID-like symptoms.
“We’re still out there seeing patients every day,” Watson says. “We’ve had some patients with COVID and our policies and procedures have been impacted, but it’s been manageable.”
Watson grew up on the Olympic Peninsula before graduating from the nursing program at Whatcom Community College and progressing on to nursing roles at St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham and the University of Washington. She joined Olympic Medical Center in the Heart Center about eight years ago.
“If you want an opportunity to strengthen and grow your nursing practice, Home Health is a great opportunity because you’re doing lots of clinical skills, as well as nursing assessments, and you have the time and the ability to do follow-up and really coordinate patient-centered care,” Watson said.