How to Become a Home Health Aide in 5 Steps

Learn about the duties and responsibilities of home health aides, who work in private homes to assist patients who are too injured or unwell to care for themselves. Read about the training and certification process, and check the typical salary for a home health aide. Schools offering Medical Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Home Health Aide?

A home health aide is a low-level medical assistant who helps disabled, recovering and elderly people manage their day-to-day living needs. Your main duties include bathing and dressing patients, preparing meals, changing bed linens, cleaning, washing laundry and providing social contact. Medical-related duties might include administering medication, taking and recording temperature and pulse, accompanying patients to doctor appointments and reporting any unusual behavior or symptoms to your superiors. With special training you might be permitted to assist with the use of ventilators and other equipment.

Step 1: Undergo Training

Your training will typically take place on-the-job under the supervision of a nurse or an aide with seniority. At the entry level you don't even need a high school diploma or GED. Training should teach you the basics of housekeeping, food preparation for clients on special diets, sanitation, safety and emergency response. You may also receive training in reading vital signs, infection control and nutrition.

Step 2: Obtain State Certification

If you want to have the option of working for agencies that accept Medicare and Medicaid you will need a state certification. The federal government mandates that you have at least 16 hours of supervised training before you're allowed to care for residents. However, some states may require 75 hours and passage of a competency evaluation.

Step 3: Consider Professional Certification

While professional certification is voluntary, it can serve as proof of your ability to provide care in a home setting. It's available from at least one organization, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. To be eligible you must complete 75 hours of training, demonstrate competency in 17 skill areas and pass a written exam. The exam is administered by Home Care University.

Step 4: Obtain a Job

About 921,700 people held positions as home health aides in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Excluding the self-employed, estimates for 2010 showed employment had risen to 982,840. From 2008-2018 it is projected to reach nearly 1.4 million. Your job prospects will be driven by an expanding population of elderly people, many of whom will opt for home care. Hospice agencies and certified home health agencies are your most likely employers. As of May 2010 the median annual salary was $20,560.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Unless you pursue further education your advancement opportunities with an employer are limited. You could move from performing housekeeping duties as a new employee to performing personal care duties as you gain experience. Alternatively, you could set up your own business and provide care to clients you locate yourself, unaffiliated with any agency.

If you've earned a high school diploma or GED you can become a nursing aide. A 1-year certificate from a vocational or technical school will enable you to become a licensed practical nurse. With a 2-year associate's degree in nursing you could become a registered nurse.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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