A Home Health Aide (HHA) may also be known as a Home Caregiver, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Patient Care Technician or Residential Assistant (RA). An HHA provides basic, personal care and health-related services to a variety of individuals (patients) who require more assistance than family and/or friends are able to provide. HHAs are part of a category of occupations that is commonly referred to as "direct care workers." The services/care that a Home Health Aide provides depends upon their specialty area.
Home Health Aide Schools and Training
While neither a high school diploma nor formal education is a requirement in this profession, it is advantageous for an individual to have at least achieved a high school diploma or equivalent. Some employers provide classroom training for new hires, but most individuals receive on-the-job training under the tutelage of RNs, Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), or other seasoned/experienced HHAs. The latter form of home health aide training may take anywhere from several days to a few months to complete. Other training available to home health aides includes workshops, lectures, and in-service training. Once an HHA completes training, it is not uncommon that they be required to go through a competency evaluation to ensure that they can properly perform required tasks.
Typical home health aide programs may include courses in:
- Geriatric Skills
- HIV/AIDS Awareness Training
- Introduction to Body Systems
- Introduction to Nutrition
- Introduction to Physical Therapy
- Occupational Therapy Aide Training
- Patient Communication
- Patient Mobility
- Patient Personal Care
- Recording Vital Signs
- Respiratory Equipment Training
- Respiratory Therapy Aide
- Understanding Vital Signs
- Uses of Basic Laboratory Equipment
It is important to note that HHAs, who work for employers who receive Medicare reimbursement, must adhere to specific Federal Government guidelines. As such, HHAs are required by Federal law to pass a competency test that covers a wide range of disciplines; training may be obtained beforehand. Furthermore, a Home Health Aide may seek voluntary certification from the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC). Licensing as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) may be required by some states.
When it comes to advancement, opportunities are limited. Moving on to health occupations generally requires formal education or training. Most HHAs move on to become RNs, medical assistants or LPNs.
Home Health Aide Job Characteristics
While some HHAs work part-time, the majority work a full-time, 40-hour work week. Many may also work nights, evenings, weekends, and holidays for patients who require round-the-clock care. If not self-employed, Home Health Aides are typically employed by state or county welfare agencies, or private home health agencies.
More often than not, home health aides have heavy workloads that include physical demands such as walking and standing for long periods of time. Also, because an HHA may be required to move clients from one spot to another and assist in standing and walking, it is very important that they learn and practice correct procedures for lifting and moving patients. Other hazards that an HHA may encounter in this occupation include minor infections and major diseases (e.g., hepatitis). It is important to note, however, that infections can be avoided by adhering to proper procedures. There are also duties performed by an HHA that most individuals would consider unpleasant, such as changing soiled bed linens and emptying bedpans.
Most home health aides simultaneously work with a variety of patients where the duration of each assignment may last anywhere from a few hours, days, or weeks. During a given day, many will drive from one patient to another. There are also HHAs who work with the same patient at their residence for many months or years.
Individuals in this profession must possess and exude the following characteristics, attributes, and abilities:
- precision and accuracy
- emotional stability
- strong communications abilities
- good physical health (including strength to lift, carry, push, pull)
- service oriented
- socially perceptive
- problem recognition/sensitivity/solving
- ability to work as part of a team
Major Employers of Home Health Aides
If not self-employed, HHAs will find employment with state or county welfare agencies, private home health agencies, social assistance agencies, health care services, and nursing and residential care facilities.