30 Safety Tips for the Home Care Nurse
Home Care Nurses have a unique and rewarding job. But, sometimes you can be in unsafe situations. Here are 30 tips to keep you safe during your Homecare visits.
Home care nurses have a unique and rewarding job. You provide skilled care where the patient lives. You get to experience their everyday life and impact their overall health and well-being.
But, there are dangers when traveling all day in and out of homes and in new neighborhoods. This isn't just anecdotal, consider stories like the New Orleans home health nurse who was abducted at gunpoint in 2012.
Safety concerns for home health nurses are real.
As a former field nurse in home care and hospice, I have had my fair share of stories of family members that gave me the creeps, "tomato plants" that looked very much like marijuana plants, and patients with guns hidden under mattresses. Even though there were times I felt unsafe, I loved my patients and the unique perspective I was given into their lives. But, you do need to implement simple ways to stay safe.
Safety Tips and Tricks for the Home Care Nurse
Keeping yourself safe doesn't take a lot of work, but it does require intention. Here are a few easy ways to increase your safety knowledge.
1. Know your workplace policies for safety and violence prevention. Don't wait until you are in the middle of a crisis to understand how to activate your company's safety program.
2. Report any unsafe situations as soon as possible. Even if it is just a feeling, be sure to report it to your supervisor. You may not be the next staff member in that home. It is your responsibility to keep others safe too.
3. Be active in your agencies safety committee.
4. Map out your visits so that you know where you are going. Wandering around new neighborhoods looking lost is not safe.
5. Be sure your car is full of fuel and in good working condition.
6. Create a car emergency kit that includes:
- Candle to keep you warm
- Band-aids, hand sanitizer, antibiotic ointment
- Road flares
- Rain poncho
- Duct Tape
- Baby wipes
- Whistle to signal for help
- Non-perishable foods or snacks
- Ice scraper
- Kitty litter for slick roads
- Blanket and warm clothing
- Flashlight and extra batteries
7. Park on the street if possible. You don't want to be blocked in if you need to leave quickly.
8. Trust your gut. If a situation feels unsafe, it probably is, and you need to get out quickly. Make sure the patient is safe, leave the home, and call your supervisor.
9. Set boundaries. If a patient or family member starts saying things or acting in a way you do not like, tell them. Be polite and direct. Avoid being argumentative.
10. Keep your cell phone on you at all times. Make sure it's fully charged before you leave in the morning and charge it throughout the day.
11. Know your company's policy on joint visits and behavioral contracts. Contact your supervisor if you need to implement either of these interventions.
12. Start your visits early. Avoid nighttime visits if possible.
13. Take a self-defense course.
14. Don't carry large amounts of cash on you.
15. Always wear your agency badge and carry your driver's license or other ID.
16. Watch your step. Be sure to pay attention to the ground and floors in homes so that you don't fall, trip, or become injured in other ways.
17. Be alert, but not nosey. You're there for the patient. If you are unsure what others in the home are doing, don't go snooping around. Do your job and leave the home. Remember, if the patient is in their right mind, they have the right to live however they desire.
18. Ask your patient to contain any aggressive pets before you enter the home.
19. Keep your sharps container in your nursing bag for easy access when you are in the patient's home.
20. Carry spray or 91% alcohol to fight against bed bugs and other critters you may come in contact with in patient homes. Wipe down the bottom of your nursing bag, soles of your shoes, and any equipment that may have come into contact with surfaces in the patient's home.
21. Always have hand sanitizer in case the patients home doesn't have running water.
22. Document in the patient's home when possible. Don't sit in their driveway or on the street for long periods of time finishing up your charting.
23. Know your service area. Learn the unsafe neighborhoods and find out where the closest police stations are in the areas that you serve the most.
24. Be prepared. Set up your visits and supplies the night before. If you must take supplies into a home, put them in bags and label them with the patient's name the night before. This allows you to gather your supplies and get into the home quickly. Don't make multiple trips back and forth to your car and don't rummage through your car getting ready for the visit. You must be alert at all times.
25. If you are confronted by someone who asks for your money, nursing bag, or other belongings, hand it over!
26. Make sure someone in your company has your schedule, just on the off chance that someone can't find you.
27. Keep trash bags in your trunk. If you go into a home that you suspect may have an insect infestation, don't take your nursing bag into the house. Place the necessary equipment into a trash bag and only carry in what you need.
28. Buy a plastic stool that you can keep in your car. During your visit, set your bag on the stool use it to take a seat. This prevents you from sitting on plush furniture that may be soiled or infested.
29. If there are safety concerns in a patient's home or building, call ahead and let them know you are coming. Most patients will be more than happy to open the door or keep an eye out for you if possible.
30. Don't talk or text while you are driving.
If you are a home care nurse, do you need other resources for safety? Check out this great list of OSHA resources specifically for home healthcare workers.
Do you have other safety tips that you use when making home visits? Put your suggestions in the comments below. You could save someone else just by sharing the things you do every day to keep yourself safe.
About melissa.mills1117, BSN
Melissa Mills has been a nurse for 20 years. She is a freelance writer, career coach, and owner of makingspace.company. She enjoys writing about leadership, careers, lifestyle, and wellness.
Joined: Feb '17; Posts: 210; Likes: 684
Freelance Writer, Nurse Case Manager, Professor; from OH , USJun 28Joined: Jul '12; Posts: 464; Likes: 487That list almost reminds me of like we're preparing to go camping. I would think it depends on where you are also. If your in the country, gosh no one will ever notice you if you stop on a rural road to get something out of your trunk. Not a smart thing to do, but some have done it. Worse yet, there could be a snake lurking in the bushes. A family member actually told me that
Also maybe being alone with at risk family members or utility workers, anyway it hasn't happened to me.Last edit by fibroblast on Jun 28Jun 29Occupation: allnurses Asst Community Manager, APRN Specialty: 25 year(s) of experience in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU ; From: US ; Joined: Apr '00; Posts: 53,620; Likes: 26,761Moved to Home Care Nursing forum
Great tipsJun 29Occupation: Freelance Writer, Nurse Case Manager, Professor From: OH, US ; Joined: Feb '17; Posts: 210; Likes: 684Fibroblast - Yes! Great tips. I have worked in rural areas too and you are right, it is different. Stopping on a country road is not safe, but yeah, no one will be watching you. LOL.
Thanks for the comments!Jun 30Occupation: Freelance Writer, Nurse Case Manager, Professor From: OH, US ; Joined: Feb '17; Posts: 210; Likes: 684Quote from KitigerKitiger, RN - Duct tape tended to be a standard item in most of the safety kits I researched when doing this article. You can use it if you are broken down to hold things together or even if something breaks in a patient's home. It's a pretty versatile tool. Personally, I have used it in Homecare to reinforce things in patients homes. Just a standard safety kit item.Why would I want duct tape in the car?