What Does a Home Health Aide Do?

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a home health aide. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

Home health aides are responsible for taking care of patients who are suffering from chronic illnesses or disabilities or are elderly and need continuous care while living at home. Many states have their own home health aide training programs. However, aspiring home health aides can choose instead to complete a certificate program in home health care, and some employers offer on-the-job training. Home health aides may need to earn certification, depending on their employer.

Required Education State training program, on-the-job training or certificate program
Certification Required for aides at companies that receive Medicare or Medicaid
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)*48%
Median Salary (2013)*$21,020

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties of a Home Health Aide

Home health aides often work closely with a health care professional such as a nurse. Some common duties of a home health aide include keeping a record of a patient's progress in order to alert a physician or a nurse to any sudden changes.

A home health aide is also responsible for some basic health care tasks, such as giving medicine, changing dressing, checking a patient's temperature and pulse rate and helping with artificial limbs or walking aids. Some home health aides who have advanced training may be able to assist patients with ventilators and other medical devices.

Education and Certification Requirements

Certificate Program

A certificate program in home health care can be completed in one or one and a half semesters at a community college. Admission often requires a high school diploma and scores from an assessment examination.

A certificate in home health care qualifies graduates to work in entry-level positions as home health aides. Students should have strong communication skills because they will be interacting with patients many times during the day. Some of the courses cover topics such as medical terminology, life support systems and math used to determine medication amounts. Students also learn how to attend to patients who have special diets and certain nutritional needs. A component of the program may allow students to gain some health aide training while under the supervision of a health care professional.

Certification

Only those home health aides who work for agencies and companies that receive Medicaid or Medicare reimbursement are required to complete certification by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice. Before a graduate of a certificate program in home health care can apply for work, he or she must have at least 16 hours of supervised experience with a patient, according to the federal government.

Many certificate programs include a work experience component, but some do not. State training programs address this discrepancy, and agency-employed home health aides are required to complete at least 75 hours of supervised training, observation and documentation of skills. Additionally, a comprehensive examination is required. In some instances, the exam may be taken without the supervised training. Aspiring home health aides should contact their states for specific requirements.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), home health aides are expected to see a 48% growth in job openings between 2012 and 2022, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The primary reason for this excellent job growth is the rise in the number of elderly patients. Many elderly patients choose to live at home but need assistance with daily activities and household chores. The BLS reports that the annual median salary in 2013 for a home health aide was $21,020.

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