Just the other day I got a phone call asking, “When’s my nurse coming out?” I replied, “We don’t have a nurse scheduled to see you today.” The caller then proceeded to tell me that she gets a nurse every morning. I then understood she was referring to her caregiver and not asking for a nurse. This conversation made me aware that some clients don’t know who the person coming to their home is.

A nurse is a person who is trained to care for the sick, infirmed, or one who needs help with the activities of daily living. A nurse has a college degree that she earned by attending classes and doing clinical work in a healthcare setting.

There are several types of nurses. A licensed practical nurse (LPN) goes to school for approximately fifteen months. They learn to provide basic medical and nursing care such as taking vitals, bathing, helping to go to the bathroom,
and feeding. They report changes in the patient’s condition to a registered nurse. A registered nurse (RN) goes to school for two or four years. Those taking the four-year course of study earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN BSN), by attending classes and doing clinical work. Nurses administer medications and treatments, coordinate plans for patient care, perform diagnostic tests, do patient teaching, and supervise other workers such as LPNs, CNAs, and home health aides. In the home care setting the nurse comes to the home for an assessment and for supervisory visits. They usually call the client to set up a mutually acceptable time for these events to take place.

The person who comes to your home every day to help you to bathe, dress, make meals, and do light housekeeping is your caregiver. The caregiver may have taken some courses to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) but not all caregivers have taken formal training. All CNAs are caregivers, but not all caregivers are CNAs. Most women have caregiver experience. They have either taken care of children or other family members or friends that need care. Whether the caregiver has formal training or not they usually have a very caring nature and are giving of themselves to care for the individual that they are assigned to.

Occasionally there are people who refer to the person coming to their home as a caretaker. A caretaker is defined as a person employed to look after a public building or a house in the owner’s absence or a person hired to do maintenance style work. This person is looking after things, not people. So when you think about that sweet, happy-to-see-you person who comes to your home and makes your life easier, that person is a caregiver. I hope this helps everybody to have a better sense of who is actually coming to their home.