Become a Home Health Aide: Education and Career Roadmap
Learn how to become a home health aide. Research the job description and the education and certification requirements and find out how to start a career in the health care field.
Home Health Aide Requirements
Home health aides typically work in the homes of their clients. Some may also provide services in small group homes or larger medical facilities. They're responsible for visiting patients, providing medical and personal care services, assessing patients' conditions and reporting this information to their employers. Home health aides may provide their services to the ill, elderly or disabled. Common duties include assisting patients with household duties, cooking meals and providing companionship.
A career as a home health aide generally requires some form of training and, in many states, certification. Most home health aides hold a high school diploma.
|Degree Level||A high school diploma or equivalent is typical*|
|Licensure and Certification||Some employers require certification*|
|Experience||One year of experience required**|
|Key Skills||Strong attention to detail, excellent physical stamina, good time management skills*|
|Additional Requirements||Current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid card**|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Brookdale Senior Living job postings July 2012.
Step 1: Complete Career Training
Many home health aides receive on-the-job training provided by other aides, nurses or their supervisors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), home health aides employed by companies receiving funding or reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid are legally required to complete training and pass any state-mandated exams. Training for aspiring home health aides is available through employers and the Red Cross. Home health aide programs employ applied and theoretical courses to teach students about physical therapy, patient assessment, nutrition and mental health.
- Complete a clinical experience. Students enrolled in home health aide program will benefit by completing clinical work under the supervision of their instructor. This can help them gain hands-on experience and training in a health care setting.
Step 2: Obtain Certification
Most states offer some sort of certification for home health aides, although it may be voluntary for those working for private companies. Requirements for certification vary by state but generally include completion of a state-approved training program. Additionally, certification candidates often must pass a competency test, which measures their health sciences knowledge and their mastery of applied skills.
Voluntary national certification for home health aides is available through the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC). Candidates must have training in addition to demonstrating their skills and passing a written exam offered through NAHC's Home Care University.
- Prepare for the exam. Individuals wishing to take the NAHC exam should obtain the recommended reading materials and study guides.
Step 3: Obtain Entry-Level Employment
Many home health aides work for the company they received their training from. They also might find employment with facilities that provide long-term medical care, such as hospices, nursing homes or psychiatric treatment centers. Home health aides normally visit patients' homes independently, but entry-level employees may be shadowed by nurses or other supervisory medical professionals.
Step 4: Pursue Continuing Education
After gaining some work experience, many home health aides pursue an associate or bachelor's degree program in nursing with the intention of becoming practical nurses, psychiatric nurses or registered nurses. Additionally, certified home health aides might be required to take continuing education courses to maintain their credentials. These classes are offered through community colleges, state nursing programs and professional associations, such as the NAHC.
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