After spending 38 years as a nurse, it is not a stretch to think that Linda Fletcher could teach a master class on what it takes to be a great nurse. Her career has spanned most care settings, including hospitals, doctors’ offices, hospice, and home health care. A year ago, Linda and her husband decided they wanted to spend more time traveling, so naturally, she launched a new phase in her career and began travel nursing.
For Linda, her heart has always been in home health, and traveling has provided her with an opportunity to continue doing what she loves while exploring new parts of the country. We recently asked her to share why she loves about her job and what it takes to be successful as a nurse in home health.
“As a home health nurse, I have more flexibility and autonomy,” she explained. “In a hospital setting, you see your patients in the same bed at regular intervals, and you aren’t always able to see the whole picture. When I see my patients in their homes, I can see the whole picture of their situation.”
Seeing patients at home allows Linda to see if they’re able to get around and take their medications. It also allows her to get a sense of what may be contributing to their conditions and how to possibly prevent or alleviate them.
Linda believes that home health is the perfect opportunity for nurses drawn to spending more time with their patients. In other care settings, she feels that nurses don’t always get the time to focus on each individual patient at a time and provide direct one-on-one care.
“When you have that time, like in a home health setting, you can build a relationship with your patient,” she says. “You can establish more trust, which allows you to get a holistic picture of their situation. With that relationship and the trust, your patient is more inclined to listen to your ideas and follow their care plan.”
Seeing the whole picture is a common theme that Linda refers to, and for an excellent reason. She recalled starting home health visits with a patient who had been suffering from respiratory issues that were causing him to go to the hospital every other week. After two home visits, the patient was back in the hospital with severe respiratory problems.
She suspected there was mold present in the home after noticing a change in her own breathing after spending time in the home. A bronchoscopy was performed and mold was found in the patient’s lungs. Thanks to Linda’s observations, and after the patient’s house was cleared of the mold, the patient’s respiratory functions improved considerably.
Another time, Linda had a patient who was also receiving home-based physical therapy after a stay in the hospital. Her appointment with the patient followed the physical therapist’s visit. Upon arrival, Linda started preparing to take the patient’s vitals, to which they objected, asking why it was necessary since the physical therapist had taken vitals while they were there.
“I calmly told the patient that I was going to take vitals because it was my job and also because I wanted to see them for myself,” she recalled. “After checking the readings, I was concerned with what I saw, so I called the doctor and relayed the information. I indicated that I felt the patient needed immediate transport to the hospital.”
As it turns out, the patient had an abscess, and about seven liters of fluid had to be drained from their abdominal cavity. Without Linda’s intervention, the patient would have died within an hour.
“It just shows you how quickly things can change,” she continued. “If I hadn’t checked the vitals for myself and overcame the patient’s objections, the outcome could have been very different.
These days, Linda feels very fortunate that she can combine her desire to travel with the passion she has for her nursing career. For her first travel assignment last year, she and her husband packed up their camper and drove from her home base in North Carolina to Maine, a state she had always wanted to visit. After being asked to stay for multiple assignment extensions, Linda was able to experience the fall colors of the North East.
Now, Linda is on a travel assignment in Arizona, working a hospice assignment in Phoenix. She is using the assignment to visit a longtime friend who lives in the area.
“With hospice, my main focus is just to make my patient as comfortable as possible. Taking care of their needs, but also being there for the loved ones,” she says. “The schedule can be a challenge because your caseload changes almost every day, so you have to stay flexible. Fortunately, we have a great group of nurses, and we are all there for each other to help out with call and caseloads.”
If you are interested in the possibility of starting your journey as a travel nurse or want to learn more about home health and hospice nursing opportunities in your area, Supplemental Health Care can help. Our nationwide network provides access to nursing opportunities across the country. Contact our recruitment team today and start your travel nursing career with SHC.
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