Believe you have it in you to assist seniors and individuals with physical disabilities lead as happy, dignified and independent a life as possible? Your decision to embark upon a career as a home health aide will have a direct impact on a steadily growing Baby Boomer population in the country. Unsurprisingly, employment of home health aides is expected to grow 41% between 2016 and 2026, exceeding the average for all occupations.[1]

While the job is challenging, it is one of the most rewarding for compassionate individuals. As a full-time aide, you may receive benefits, including medical insurance, sick days and vacation time.

If you are excited to embark upon a career in the in-home care industry, here is a four-step process to realizing your professional ambition.

1. Understand educational requirements

Although you don’t need a high school diploma to work as a home health aide, most aides have a diploma. If you plan to work for a company that accepts Medicare or Medicaid, you must complete a formal training program, as discussed below. If you will be working for a private employer that does not accept Medicare/Medicaid, you only need to meet terms specified by employers. That being said, a high school diploma or equivalent can increase your chances of being hired as employers generally choose candidates with more education. Besides holding a high school diploma, aides often demonstrate a 10th grade level of reading and writing, and at least 9th grade level mathematics knowledge, including pre-algebra.

2. Obtain state certification

The federal government requires you to have at least 16 hours of supervised training prior to working with patients.Agencies that accept Medicare or Medicaid require 75 hours of training to receive home health aide licensure.

HHA certifications differ from state to state; many don’t ask for any more than the minimum mandated federal requirement, while some may insist on additional requirements. For instance, to work as a home health aide in Florida, you need a 40-hour HHA certificate, 75-hour home health aide certification or a HHA diploma through a post-secondary school. Tennessee does not require more than the minimum federal standards, while Washington’s definition of ‘home health aide’ is an individual registered or certified as a nursing assistant. That is why, to obtain a home health aide/certified nursing assistant certificate, you must complete 85 hours of training, of which at least 50 hours should be devoted to clinical training.

You can consider a number of home health aide certification programs in your state. The programs can be quite distinct from one another, so understand the outcomes of the program before signing up.

There are 100-hour home health aide certification programsthat award a certification in three career areas of homemaker, personal care homemaker or full-time home health aide.

In the first area, you will learn to take care of the client’s home environment. The second focuses on imparting knowledge and skills of assisting clients with their personal care activities, including bathing, dressing, transferring and ambulating. The third builds on the skills of the first two and adds the skill of caring for medically-ill patients.

A 75-hour certification program, in addition to covering the essential skills required of a home health aide, may cover human, emotional and spiritual needs, employee rights, caring for a dying resident, and basics of wellness and stress management for the caregiver.

You can also make the most of free HHA classes, largely offered by private employers who then absorb you into their workforce. Generally, the requirements are a high school diploma (or equivalent) and a current driver’s license. Home health agencies offer free training courses a few times a year at many locations, combining classroom and practical training under the supervision of Registered Nurses.

3. Give a thought to professional certification

Professional certification is voluntary, but it will highlight your knowledge and competency in this field. The National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC) offers certification, covering all critical areas of the profession, including ethics, human resources and risk management. Other than these areas, the certification also helps you demonstrate competency in areas of basic medical procedures (ex: checking blood pressure and heart rates), administering medications, dressing wounds and assisting patients with exercises. Additionally, the certification proves that you possess some knowledge of medical procedures and instruments, which can make you a suitable caregiver for medicallyill patients.

4. Kick start your job search

You may already be familiar with LinkedIn, Indeed and Monster, but don’t give healthcare job boards a miss:

  • Home Health Care Jobs, dedicated to home health, hospice, nursing and private care job aspirants and employers, allows you to filter jobs by location and distance.
  • HomeCareCareers.com is a leading job board and a home care and hospice directory listing the A-Z of companies.
  • Care.com is a career center for home health aide, child care, housekeeping and pet care jobs. It offers the option to search for jobs based on how soon you want one, such as ‘right now’, ‘within a week’ or ‘in 1-2 months’.

If you are an experienced HHA seeking a higher pay or better perks, consider casting a wide net to get as many rewarding offers as possible.

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