1. Brooke, Penny Simpson APRN, MS, JD

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A friend of mine makes her living by caring for older adults in their homes. She does light housekeeping, cooks, runs errands, or simply provides companionship. She knows that I'm looking for part-time work to supplement my income and has offered to set me up with one of her families. I'd be working 6 to 8 hours a week helping an elderly couple while the wife recovers from abdominal surgery. I'm interested, but wonder if I'd be putting my RN license at risk. I do carry my own malpractice insurance. What guidelines should I follow, or is this an opportunity I should pass up?-N.R., FLA.


Your first step should be to clarify your role and the couple's expectations. From what you've said, you'd be doing very general caregiver duties, unless they'd expect you to provide postabdominal surgery nursing care. Once you know the details, put your intentions and expectations in writing, including payment for your services, to avoid future misunderstandings.


Also, contact your personal professional insurance company to make sure your policy covers this type of nursing experience. Check your state's nurse practice act and the corresponding rules and regulations too, just to make sure that you understand the law in your jurisdiction. If you're currently working, make sure your employer doesn't have a noncompete clause in the employee handbook. You may not be permitted to accept home-care work if your employer provides similar services.


Finally, consider your own skill level. If a medical emergency arises, you'd be expected to meet the standards of nursing care because you're an RN. Can you competently handle any emergencies or other issues that you might encounter caring for an elderly couple? If you consider all these details in advance, you may find this part-time job a rewarding way to use your skills.