Private duty nursing is a rewarding career option in which the nurse has only one patient. She may provide care in a hospital, nursing home or assisted living facility, but care is most often provided in the home. Patients may include newborns, those with complex medical needs, the elderly and those who are unable to provide care for themselves because of mental deficiencies.
A registered nurse or licensed practical nurse working on a private duty case carries out orders from the patient's physician. These orders may include medication, intravenous fluids, treatments, patient and family education, and monitoring of the patient's condition. She must keep nurse's notes to document every aspect of her care as well as her ongoing assessments of the patient's health status. She may provide care during an 8 or 12 hour shift, or she may have a live-in arrangement. Private duty nurses must be well-mannered and respectful of the patient and family's privacy.
Private duty nurses may provide care to newborn infants by feeding the child, taking vital signs, providing sensory stimulation and monitoring the child. An unhealthy infant may require specialized feedings through a tube, medical treatments, oxygen, frequent weighing or medication. A healthy infant may have a private duty nurse at the request of the parents, or because of an extended recovery of the mother after labor.
Patients who live at home with ventilators often utilize private duty nurses. These nurses maintain the ventilator, keep the opening in the patient's throat healthy and free from excess secretions, provide tube feedings, give medicine, turn the patient, monitor the lungs, percuss the chest, insert urinary catheters, watch for infection and perform other services depending on patient needs.
Private duty nurses may monitor for seizures, give strong chemotherapy drugs, provide massage therapy, bathe a patient, keep up with oxygen tanks, help a patient learn to walk again, dress a surgery wound, prepare food, record bowel movements, provide psychiatric services or give pain medicine. The tasks are as varied as the patients themselves.
Sometimes, private duty nurses are hired by wealthy patients who do not necessarily need complex nursing care or close monitoring. These nurses may assist the patient with travel, drive him to physician appointments, take his vital signs regularly and remind him to take his medication. Regardless of the circumstances, the nurse provides physician-ordered nursing care and, in the absence of an order, care that she knows to be beneficial to the patient's physical and mental well-being.
J. Lucy Boyd, RN, BSN has written several nonfiction books including "The Complete Guide to Healthy Cooking and Nutrition for College Students." She is frequently called upon to provide career guidance to medical professionals and advice to parents of children with challenges. She also loves teaching others to cook for their families.