Home Health Aide (HHA) Career Guide

For anyone looking for a rewarding career helping others, with little or no formal education required, better than average career growth, possibility for flexible scheduling, and financial stability, becoming a home health aide is an excellent choice.

Use this career guide to learn more about home health aides, and decide if it may be the 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, 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.

Home Heath Aide Job Description and Duties

These assignments may include assisting with personal tasks like bathing and dressing clients, or completing light housekeeping like laundry, dishes, and vacuuming. HHAs play a large part in helping individuals thrive by keeping them engaged in their social networks and communities, organizing schedules and appointments, and arranging transportation to doctor’s visits and other kinds of outings. It would also be common to find yourself shopping for groceries and helping to prepare meals appropriate to an individual’s dietary needs.

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.

A career as an HHA offers much personal reward, balancing a challenging medical profession with personal care for each patient you meet.

Workplace Environment

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.

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.

Top 5 States with the Highest HHA Salaries in the U.S.

State

Annual Salary

Alaska

$33,290

North Dakota

$33,170

Delaware

$31,290

California

$29,210

Massachusetts

$29,200

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.

Top 5 States with the Highest Employment Levels in the U.S.

State

Employment

New York

173,830

Texas

67,180

Ohio

65,710

Pennsylvania​​​​

42,890

North Carolina

39,320

How to Become A Home Health Aide and Obtain HHA Certification

Entering the healthcare field and becoming a home health aide can seem overwhelming, but the process can be easily broken down into six steps:

Step One: Research State HHA Training Requirements

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 certification, 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 certification for your state.

Choose your state below.

Step Two: Research HHA Training Options

Home health aide training can be received through a variety of sources, including:

  • Home health aide agencies
  • Local state assistance agencies
  • Online learning environments

Training can be completed for little or no cost, often in a matter of weeks. Each program will have their own standards for entrance, and it will be important for you to ensure you meet them all as you make your selection. Consider previous education requirements, cost, length, program policies, and assistance they may provide after you have completed training to help you make the best decision. Most importantly, make sure you choose a training environment in which you learn well and can be successful!

Step Three: Complete a State Approved Training Program

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.

Step Four: Complete Your HHA Certification and Required Evaluations

Successful completion of your training is often followed by a fair amount of paperwork to ensure you are properly registered for the necessary exam, 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.

Step Five: Complete Continuing Education Requirements

The healthcare field is ever-changing, and it is important to keep up to date on an HHAs utilized skills and techniques as they evolve with the field.

With the federal requirements, 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.

Step Six: Put your skills to work in the real world - apply for jobs and start working!

After a number of years, the experience and skills gained in the field can translate to opportunities for advancement. Home health aides may be promoted to a supervisory role where they have the chance to train and mentor new HHAs.

You may even find that, after some time, you wish to continue your education to pursue another aspect of the healthcare field with additional opportunities for career growth and increased salary range.

Necessary Skills and Traits

  • Physical capability: You will often be responsible for lifting or positioning clients or performing other tasks that call for physical strength. It is also a requirement that home health aides successfully pass a physical examination and various screenings prior to employment, or even training, proving they are in overall good health.
  • Communication skills: The success you experience each day as an HHA will largely depend on your ability to communicate well with your client, their family members, and other members of their health care team. The way you verbally communicate, pick up on the non-verbal cues of others, and listen will help you build trusting relationships and allow you to connect on a personal level with all the people you work with.
  • Dependability: You will improve your working relationships even further when you demonstrate this trait. You will build trust with coworkers and supervisors when you prove to them you show up for work on time, and you will build trust with clients and their families when they know they can rely on you to provide the best care possible to promote their well-being.
  • Attention to detail: There will be many important things to keep track of during your day as a home health aide. Client medications, appointments and scheduling, or special dietary needs are a few examples of why it is important to be aware of the small details.
  • Time management: You will have many duties to perform as a home health aide, each with its own significance. Being able to prioritize your tasks will help you to ensure everything is completed successfully.
  • Problem solving: Sometimes you may find yourself facing difficult situations on the job, and being able to navigate the issues effectively will be paramount to your success and satisfaction as a home health aide. This can include mental problem solving, like figuring the logistics of getting your client to and from appointments on time, or relational problem solving, like being able to empathize and show patience as the problem is resolved.

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