How Can I Become a Certified Home Health Aide?

Explore the career requirements for home health aides. Get the facts about training requirements, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Medical Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Home Health Aide?

A certified home health aide is a helper for people who need help with daily activities, including people who are elderly, chronically ill or have disabilities. They work with people who are living at home or in hospice settings, and they help with activities like bathing, dressing, house cleaning, cooking and transportation. In some states, they are also qualified to provide basic medical care, such as checking vital signs.

To learn how to get started in this field, check out the table below.

Training Required Minimal training required for some employment settings
Key Responsibilities Assist patients with daily tasks, record patient vital signs
Certification State certification required in some instances; voluntary certification is also available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 38% for home health aides*
Median Salary (2015) $21,920 for home health aides*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as a Certified Home Health Aide?

As a home health aide, you would care for elderly, terminally ill or disabled patients in their homes or in long-term care facilities. You would work with people who need daily care that their relatives or friends can't provide, including assisting with mobility, bathing, dressing and eating. Depending on the patient, you may need to lead daily exercise routines or change dressings on wounds. Home health aides typically work for home health agencies, so you would need to gather the patient's vital statistics and report the patient's condition to your supervising nurse or another medical professional. Since you would be working closely with certain patients over extended periods of time, you'll need to be personable, compassionate and patient with your clients, who could be disoriented or irritable.

What Education or Training Do I Need?

Much of the training you need to work as a home health aide can be completed on the job. The nurses or other medical personnel at your agency can teach you how to cook for certain diets, perform light housekeeping duties and react in emergency situations. There are also home health aide training courses available from third-party organizations, such as the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org). In these programs, you may learn about hygiene, communication, common diseases and homemaking. If you work for an agency that is funded through Medicare or Medicaid, you are legally required to receive training and pass an evaluation or earn certification from your state of residence.

How Do I Become Certified?

The National Association for Home Care and Hospice offers the Home Care Aide National Certification Program, a credentialing process that requires you to complete 75 hours of training, demonstrate competency in your skills and earn a passing score on a written examination (www.nahc.org). Some states require that home health aides be certified, while others do not, so be sure to check with your state for specific requirements.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another option for individuals who are interested in helping people with daily activities is a job as a certified nurse assistant (CNA). These professionals provide daily assistance and basic patient care for individuals living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. However, it is important to note that, unlike home health aides, they must complete a postsecondary program and pass a certification exam before they can work. A slightly higher-level nursing option is a job as a licensed practical or vocational nurse (LPN/LVN). They focus more specifically on clinical care; they consult with patients, monitor their health status and report back to registered nurses and doctors. Like CNAs, LPNs and LVNs need to get a certificate or diploma and pass a licensure exam.

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