Private duty nursing is a unique specialty in which nurses focus on the direct one-on-one care of a single patient in their home environment. The independent alternative to clinical care has been prevalent since the 1960s to give patients more individualized attention. Private duty nurses are typically licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or registered nurses (RNs) depending on their training. Private duty nurses generally work temporarily with one patient who is transitioning from hospital care to life at home. At times, private duty nurses work with patients needing long-term care for conditions like traumatic brain injury (TBI), cerebral palsy, or dementia. Unlike home health aides, private duty nurses usually won’t assist in housekeeping chores. Their focus is on providing skilled nursing care within then comfort and safety of home.


Pay varies greatly based on a private duty nurse’s credentials. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 78,810 LPNs employed in home healthcare services in the United States bring home an average yearly salary of $45,370. The 168,970 RNs working in home healthcare services earn significantly more with a mean annual wage of $67,880.

Beginning Salary

When just starting out as an LPN, private duty nurses can expect to land in the bottom 10th percentile of earnings with a yearly income around $31,640. However, it’s important to note that experienced RNs in private duty nursing can eventually earn over $81,080 each year. Those who become NPs make an average of $97,990 annually.

Key Responsibilities

Private duty nurses typically have the same general duties as RNs or LPNs working in a hospital or medical practice. However, private duty nurses focus on meeting the needs of a single patient rather than multiple. Private duty nurses are responsible for evaluating the patient’s condition and maintaining meticulous records of their progress. Typical daily tasks may include administering medications, changing dressings on wounds, fixing nutritious meals, assisting with mobility, monitoring vital signs, providing hygiene assistance, taking blood work, and educating family members. Private duty nurses often must communicate with their patients’ physicians daily and supervise home caregivers.

Necessary Skills

Before you build a private duty nursing career, you’ll need to fine-tune your marketing skills to effectively sell your services and show your credibility to prospective clients. Interpersonal skills are essential since private duty nurses must regularly communicate with patients, their families, caregivers, and physicians. Private duty nurses should be detail-oriented with good organizational skills to monitor patients’ progress. Being flexible enough to adapt to changing work environments is key. Private duty nurses must exhibit compassion, patience, and sensitivity to keep patient information confidential. Physical stamina is important because private duty nurses may have to lift and move injured or sick patients.

Degree and Education Requirements

Becoming licensed for private duty nursing will require that you have post-secondary training in nursing from an accredited college. Obtaining a one-year nursing certificate or diploma will be sufficient for working as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). If you’re striving for RN credentials, earning a two-year associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree will be required. Take electives in business because knowing how to receive payments from Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurance carriers is key. Attending graduate school to receive a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) would advance your career as a nurse practitioner (NP) or clinical nurse specialist (CNS).

Pros and Cons of the Position

Like other careers, working in private duty nursing will provide a range of rewards and challenges that you should be aware of. On the positive side, private duty nurses can set their own pay rates and make higher salaries than traditional nursing employees. Private duty nurses are essentially their own bosses and have a high level of autonomy. The job allows RNs or LPNs to focus on delivering high-quality care to one patient and form a deep bond. Demand is high for private duty nurses, especially those working with elderly patients. On the other hand, private duty nurses are usually independent contractors, which makes them responsible for handling their own taxes. Lack of insurance benefits is a concern. Some private duty nurses may have to work longer hours to ensure round-the-clock needs are met. There’s very little job security, so you may have to change patients and locations frequently.

Getting Started

After earning your degree or diploma, you’ll have to fulfill your state’s board of nursing licensure requirements to the letter. For RN licensing, most states require you pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) and a background check. Acquiring a bachelor’s degree will give you a competitive edge for nursing practice. Most private duty nurses begin in entry-level staff nursing positions in general hospitals, physician offices, clinics, or nursing homes. Having experience on your resume is important before you begin approaching home health care agencies for private duty positions. Build a portfolio with referral letters from previous employers and your state license. Protecting yourself with insurance and a surety bond is advised. Adding on extra certifications through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), such as Home Health Nursing or Gerontological Nursing, is smart too.

Future Outlook

Nursing is one of the fastest-growing professions in America’s economy. Our nation’s large baby boomer population is aging and spiking the need for home healthcare services. Growing rates for chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, is projected to increase the demand for extended in-home care as well. Budgetary limits are causing hospitals to discharge patients quickly into the capable hands on a private duty nurse. The BLS predicts that the employment of LPNs will grow rapidly by 25 percent through 2022. Job growth for RNs will be favorable by 19 percent through the same time period. Those willing to work in medically underserved rural regions will have great prospects. Private duty nurses can market their own services or find work through a home health agency.

Overall, private duty nurses are basically self-employed, independent contractors who have the freedom to select their own patients. Private duty nurses focus on developing and implementing an effective nursing care plan for one individual either short or long-term. They’re paid privately or directly through insurance rather than by an employing health organization. If you become a private duty nurse, you’ll be given the rewarding opportunity to be your own boss while positively touching the lives of patients in need of at-home assistance.