For the past 8 week rotation, I have been working full-time with a home health organization. Home health was a practice area that I had not considered as a career. Being 5’3 and tiny in general, I was scared of traveling into strangers’ homes to provide healthcare. I had heard horror stories of death threats, dog bites, and unbearable living conditions. It was fair to say that I was a bit anxious about this rotation.
Home health was a wonderful experience. In fact, it was one of my favorite rotations! Here are the top ten things I learned from my home health rotation:
1) The patients in home health are gracious hosts
One thing that I was most surprised about was how thankful each patient was for therapy. The majority of my patients appreciated the fact that we were willing to help them in the home environment since they were unable to be outside the home without significant difficulty. I was offered plenty of food and was given numerous hugs throughout my 8 weeks.
2) Working in the home environment encourages patient relationships
Working in a patient’s home requires good rapport. Patients must feel comfortable with YOU being inside their home, so a good home health therapist should enjoy being around people. Home health encourages a one on one environment, and this allows close and trusting relationships to develop.
3) Patients are responsible for their pets
Many of my patients had pets. I met many different cats, dogs, and birds in my 8 weeks. Patients generally know if their pets are friendly to strangers, and they will take the necessary precautions. A majority of my patients would move their animals into a different room so they were unable to interrupt the therapy session. However, it is always good to check with your patient about their pets.
4) Patients’ homes will vary in many ways, and this is a great thing
During my home health rotation, I dealt with all ranges of socioeconomic status. I was in some beautiful modern homes, old farmhouses filled with character, apartments, trailers, and a few homes in disrepair. It is important to realize that this is a patient’s home. Who are you to judge their situation? (However, home health providers are required to report unsafe living conditions.)
5) The kitchen counter is your greatest asset
Everyone has a kitchen sink, and this is a fantastic place to do exercises. Unlike an outpatient clinic, you do not have access to parallel bars or treatment tables. Kitchen sinks are easier for people to hold onto than countertops, and they tend to be more stable than the back of furniture.
6) Never doubt how much people love balloons
A majority of my patients needed to improve their static and dynamic balance. While different walking patterns and single leg stance are appropriate balance activities, I prefer to use balloons. Batting at a balloon forces an individual to move their center of gravity over their base of support as they must compensate to stay upright. Moving your head also changes balance, and the unpredictable path of a balloon is great for stimulating rapid head movements. Every patient loved using the balloon. I even had a few put balloons on their grocery lists so that they could practice with another person outside of the therapy session. I love how balloons brought smiles to everyone’s faces. (And I have gotten much better at tying them off!)
7) If you enjoy traveling, this is a great way to experience your neighborhood
I have lived in the area where we provided home health for 8 years, and it was often an area my family and friends would visit and explore. I was shocked by how many shortcuts I learned and the overall beauty of the area. I tried a few new restaurants, too!
8) Using a tablet for notation is fantastic
This was my first rotation that did notation on a tablet computer. As a member of the “tech generation,” I found this to be quite convenient for the home environment. They are less burdensome than carrying around a laptop, and of course, faster than paper documentation. My advice is to always have a stylus because it makes using a tablet easier for yourself and for your patients whenever they have to sign electronic paperwork.
9) Keep an eye on vitals, especially weight
Several of my home health patients had cardiac arrest or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) which can cause fluid retention. Keeping track of weight can help a patient know if they are starting to have an exacerbation and can allow them to prevent hospitalization. As always, vitals are vital! Be sure to check oxygen saturation, heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure with every patient.
10) Have an open mind
The different clientele that you meet throughout home health have different traditions, cultures, and habits. Keep an open mind and allow your patients to teach you new things!
What questions about home health do you have? Have you used home health? Feel free to comment below!
Much of what I have learned about physical therapy and online health/wellness, I have learned from Greg Todd, the founder of Physical Therapy Builder. He is a fantastic physical therapist whose mission is to help physical therapists provide patient focused care without becoming overwhelmed. Greg Todd is also known as a “social media guru,” and I have a lot of thank him for. I highly suggest his courses, especially Smart Success PT. In May, I plan to attend Smart Success PT Live, a business, marketing, and branding course by some of the top PT entrepreneurs in the field.