For anyone looking for a rewarding career helping others, with little or no formal education, better than average career growth, possibility for flexible scheduling, and financial stability, becoming a home health aide and gaining your HHA certification is an excellent choice.
Use this career guide to learn more about home health aides, and decide if it may be the right career path for you.
What is a home health aide?
Home health aides play an important role as part of a healthcare team and in the lives of the clients they care for. If you understand the importance of helping individuals maintain a high quality of life in the comfort of their own home, this may be an excellent career for you to consider.
While it is most common for them to work with older adults, home health aides (HHAs) can be hired to assist a person of any age – often those with various disabilities, cognitive impairments, or chronic illnesses – to complete their activities of daily living.
As with any career, working as a home health aide requires you to consider the type of environment you would prefer to spend your day in. Many times HHAs provide care in a patient’s private home, but clients can reside in assisted living facilities, retirement communities, apartments, or transitional housing or group homes.
There are HHAs that prefer to provide direct care to one client at a time, but there are also those who will see multiple patients in one day. When it comes to supervision, home health aides are most often overseen by the patient’s primary care provider, but aides who work independently of a certified home health agency can answer directly to a patient’s family members.
A career as a home health aide offers much personal reward, balancing a challenging medical profession with personal care for each patient you meet.
Home Health Aide Job Description: Typical Duties and Responsibilities
A home health aide has a variety of tasks, which may include:
- Maintaining a safe and secure environment for patient
- Monitoring and recording patient physical and mental condition and notifying nurse supervisor of changes
- Assisting with personal tasks like bathing , grooming , dressing, and performing other types of personal hygiene
- Completing light housekeeping like laundry, dishes, and vacuuming
- Assisting patient with therapy and exercises
- Educating family members on caring for patient
- Organizing schedules and appointments
- Helping with transportation
- Preparing meals appropriate to an individual’s dietary needs
- Helping individuals thrive by keeping them engaged in their social networks and communities
And, while it depends on the state you work in, your job may also include providing basic health-related services, like checking vital signs or administering prescribed medications under the supervision of an appropriate health care professional, like a registered nurse.
There is still considerable debate over this topic, but recent years have seen an increasing number of states, like New Jersey, Colorado, Missouri, and Arkansas, expanding their regulations to include these job functions for home health aides.
How to Get Your Home Health Aide Certification
1. Find Requirements to Be a Home Health Aide in Your State
While not all states require formal training to work as a home health aide, most do. However, even if you reside in a state that does not require formal training but plan to work for an agency that is reimbursed for patient care through Medicare or Medicaid, you will still be required to meet the minimum federal requirement.
Often states follow the federal requirement of 75 training hours and successful completion of a competency evaluation in order to receive an HHA certificate, but an increasing number of states require more than the federal minimum. Your state’s local governing agency can confirm the hours and evaluation, if any, you will need to meet in order to work as a home health aide. They may also be able to direct you to a resource of approved training programs that lead to a valid HHA certification for your state.
2. Complete a State Approved Training Program
Home health aide training is available through a variety of schools, agencies, and formats depending on where in the country you live. As you research your program, consider the options that may work best for you.
- Local home health agencies. Would you prefer a quick program that will get you working in the field quickly? Perhaps you should check with some local home health agencies to see if they offer free training to potential employees.
- Local state assistant agencies. Is your budget limited? Why not check with your local state assistant agencies to see if your circumstances qualify you for free HHA classes or low-cost training.
- Local community colleges. Would you benefit more from a program that is a little longer and more in depth? Maybe it’s a good idea to check out the local community colleges in your area to see if they offer HHA training in an upcoming term or semester.
- Online. Does your schedule or transportation limit the amount of time you can spend in a classroom? Checking out home health aide online training might be a way to go for you.
Once you have selected a valid program that will meet your goals for learning and entering the field, you can expect:
- To complete a certain number of hours learning in a classroom
- To complete a certain number of hours learning hands-on, in a lab or “field-like” setting
Your instruction will be performed by or under the direct supervision of a registered nurse with no less than two years of experience, one of which must be directly providing home health care.
3. Complete the HHA Certification Exam
Successful completion of your training is often followed by a fair amount of paperwork to ensure you are properly registered for the necessary home health aide test, and that you receive the applicable certification.
The home health aide certification exam consists of:
- Written exam
- Oral exam
- Demonstration of skills and techniques learned during your training
Passing your exam usually means you are certified to work as a home health aide in your state, and your information is often registered with a government agency for as long as it is valid.
Home Health Aide Salary and Career Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics home health aides earn an average annual wage of $23,600. The median salary is $22,600, which comes out to $10.87 per hour. The highest 10% earn a salary of $30,610 ($14.72 per hour) and the lowest 10% earning $17,990 ($8.65 per hour). Alaska, North Dakota, and Delaware lead the country in highest paid HHAs.
Like any field of work, a person’s earning potential can vary widely based on where in the country they’re working, who their employer is, what their previous education is, and how much experience they have.
Note that those who choose to pursue training to become a certified home health aide account for much of the higher reported wages, and have an upper hand when it comes to employment options.
One of the most beneficial reasons for pursuing a career as a home health aide is the obvious job security. With more than 814,000 people currently employed as an HHA in the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also estimates a much faster than average career growth for the field – 40% from 2016-2026. That’s more than one million jobs for an aspiring HHA to take advantage of! And with good reason: the need for assistance home health aides provide increases as the population ages. More and more seniors are preferring to stay in their own homes, and HHAs help to make that possible.
US News & World Report published the Best Health Care Jobs of 2016, and, considering factors like work/life balance, stressors, salary, job market, and future growth potential, home health aides rank #12 on the list. They also report that, overall, home health aides rank #66 on the list of The 100 Best Jobs. Combined with the fact that HHAs boast a low overall unemployment rate of 5.2%, it is easy to see why a career as a home health aide is an excellent choice.
The healthcare field is ever-changing, and it is important to keep up to date on utilized skills and techniques as they evolve with the field.
You might be thinking, “How long does HHA certification last for?”.
With the federal requirements to keep your HHA certification, you can expect a minimum of at least one performance review every 12 months by a qualified home health agency, and no less than 12 hours of in-service training in a 12 month period performed by or under the supervision of a qualified RN.