Caregiving Challenges, What is Private Duty Nursing?

Your loved one may need complex medical care at home, including ongoing observation and assessment, and you may prefer a nurse do it.

Helpful Highlights

  • Private duty nursing is long-term, hourly nursing care in the home.

  • Private duty nurses can perform several nursing and medical tasks, as well as communicate with providers.

  • Private duty nurses can be hired through a home care agency or hired directly as an independent contractor.

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What is private duty nursing?

Private duty nurses are licensed RNs and LPN/LVNs hired through an agency or directly as individual contractors. They provide long-term, comprehensive hourly nursing care and are qualified to perform skilled medical tasks involving various supplies, equipment, and technology. Private duty nursing differs from home health nursing.

What can a private duty nurse do?

Private duty nurses can perform all nursing tasks, as well as any intervention ordered by a provider. Examples include ongoing assessment to determine needs and progress, medication management (includes reconciliation, education, and setting up pill boxes), medication administration, wound care, intravenous access and catheter care, communication with providers, and much more.

LPN/LVNs are licensed nurses and those working in home care are especially talented, though there are some tasks and interventions that can only be performed by RNs. Likewise, LPNs/LVNs are always overseen by an RN. This is important to note because if an LPN/LVN is providing most of the care for your loved one, you can expect visits from an RN from time to time, as well. In many cases, however, it is simply an RN delivering care.

Where can I find a private-duty nurse?

Private duty nurses are available through many home care agencies, as well as by private hire (through nurse registries in your state, staffing services, and online portals).


Most private duty nursing is private pay (you or your loved one pay out-of-pocket), however, some insurances provide coverage. Check your loved one's benefits to find out.

Private duty nursing is, of course, more expensive than unlicensed in-home caregivers. Hourly rates vary depending on:

  • Location

  • Whether you hire through an agency or hire the nurse directly

  • The skills to be performed

  • The amount of time needed per visit and if evening or overnight hours are required

  • Mileage and/or supply costs may be added on

Because of these variations, even an average hourly rate cannot be estimated, but an agency will typically charge at least double the nurse's hourly wage. For example, if the RN wage is $35/hr, the agency may charge $70/hr or more for private pay. (LPN/LVNs are a few to several dollars less.)

Hiring a private duty nurse directly (not through an agency) may or may not be less expensive per hour, depending on how the nurse figures their hourly rate. If they charge just their hourly rate, it could be less expensive, though if they build in transportation costs, supply costs, account for employment tax, etc., the rate may be similar to or even exceed the agency rate.


If you and your loved one decide to hire a private duty nurse directly, be sure to request a copy of their resume, get their license number, and check a few references. Nursing license searches are free and offered online by every state nursing board. The search will tell you if that nurse has an active license in your state and if that license is in good standing or has an action against it.

No content in this app, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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