An outpatient nurse provides medical care to house-bound or hospice-bound patients. These nurses are usually affiliated with hospitals or medical practices, but they spend most of their time making house calls. They usually work closely with patients’ doctors, reporting on medical developments and helping to strategize care plans.
In medicine, patients can be either inpatient or outpatient. The term “inpatient” generally describes people who have been admitted to the hospital and are receiving round-the-clock care there. An “outpatient” designation, on the other hand, refers to people who are in need of medical care, but receive that care either though short daytime visits to hospitals or in their homes. Outpatient nursing is a profession dedicated to providing outpatient care wherever the patients may be.
The majority of outpatient nurses work with people who have chronic conditions, or who are facing end-of-life issues. These people often find it very difficult to travel to hospitals or clinics to receive care. An outpatient nurse comes to the bedsides of patients in these situations and administers medication, treats wounds, and monitors conditions. Depending on the circumstances, an outpatient nurse may also do things like bathe patients, change their linens, and help keep them comfortable.
Outpatient care is very flexible, and is usually tailored to meet the specific needs of the sick and suffering. Nurses can come by every day, for instance, or but once or twice a week. A lot of this depends on the circumstances of the patient. People in hospice care are usually served by a hospice team, and may need an outside medical representative only occasionally, or only when conditions worsen. An infirm patient in a private residence may require much more regular care.
Medical consultation and health planning is also a big part of the outpatient nurse’s day-to-day job. Nurses are one component of a patient’s care team, in collaboration with doctors and other specialists. Of all the members of a care team, however, the nurse is usually the only person who visits outpatient clients in the field. Accurate reporting, both of the patient’s condition and of procedures performed, is essential for the other members of the team to continue making appropriate care decisions.
As far as nursing jobs go, outpatient care is usually one of the most desirable and the most demanding. The position is usually held by more experienced professionals who have had a lot of time to hone their practice and expertise. It can be a good way for nurses to ratchet down their schedules for more part-time work, either as a way of staying home with a family or easing into retirement.
The hours are typically much less flexible in outpatient service than they might be in hospital-based nursing career, however. An outpatient nurse must usually be willing to travel to the patient’s side at a moment’s notice, at all hours of the day or night. This requires a certain level of flexibility and availability.