4 Considerations for Choosing a Home Health Aide Career
1. An Increase in Need for Home Health Aides Exists
Increasingly in healthcare, there is a need for Home Health Aides (HHA). As people age, they are at higher risk of developing chronic illnesses and/or disabilities that require personal assistance outside of a hospital setting.
Although the majority of individuals in need of an HHA are over age 65, other younger individuals with developmental disabilities, cognitive disabilities, or mental health issues as well as family members caring for a child may be in need of an HHA. HHAs may also work with people recovering from hospitalization for illness or surgery or with hospice patients.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for HHAs are expected to increase 25 percent by 2031, surpassing the average growth rate of five percent for other occupations.
The COVID-19 pandemic also underlined the nation’s need for more healthcare professionals to treat patients not only in crises but with ongoing or long-term health issues.
2. The Program Training is Relatively Short
Home Health Aide Guide notes that to be admitted to an HHA training program there is a prerequisite of having a high school diploma or GED. Federal requirements mandate 75 hours of minimal training.
However, requirements for certification and licensing can vary throughout the country so it is important to check that state’s requirements before enrolling in a specific certification program.
Many HHA training programs such as at Blackstone Career Institute are available online and can be completed within a short amount of time, and with working at your own pace. Other sources for HHA programs may be offered through community colleges or home healthcare agencies (sometimes offered free or at a reduced rate).
After completion of your HHA training program, you will need to submit an application to the state where you plan to work and will need to take an exam for certification.
There are also professional organizations to be aware of such as the National Home Care & Hospice Association, or Home Care Association of America as well as others that can help you explore opportunities.
Becoming an HHA can also prepare you to advance your career in other healthcare professions. Since program courses usually include medical terminology, anatomy, assisting with special procedures, how to use certain medical equipment such as oxygen, and how to handle an emergency situation, you can prepare to advance in your career with further training to becoming, for example, a registered nurse, licensed vocational nurse, or certified nursing assistant.
3. What Happens in a Day as an HHA Can Vary
Just to clarify, there can be differences in the responsibilities of an HHA and a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) although some responsibilities may overlap. PCAs are generally responsible for non-medical-related tasks such as doing laundry, cleaning the house, and providing companionship to an individual at home who lives alone and/or is in need of additional assistance.
HHAs—although they may assume some of the same responsibilities as a PCA—are under the supervision of another healthcare professional such as a nurse or therapist. They may take a patient’s vital signs (pulse, temperature respirations) and are responsible for helping an individual with activities of daily living such as bathing or getting dressed.
They can provide skin care, prepare meals based on a patient’s nutrition needs and dietary recommendations, help with arranging doctor appointments and transportation, and help with devices that assist patients such as walkers, braces, or prosthetics.
HHAs are tasked with reporting the patient’s status, the service rendered, and future plans for the patient with each visit no matter what their setting of employment. Responsibilities can vary depending on what is allowed by the individual state’s requirements for performing certain care duties.
Although most HHAs are employed in home settings, providing ongoing care after surgery or prolonged illness care, opportunities to work as an HHA in assisted living facilities, group homes, rehab centers, hospice, and even in telehealth to monitor a patient’s status and progress are available job-setting options.
4. Choose Wisely When Deciding to Become an HHA
Keep in mind that working as an HHA can be stressful and challenging. At times, the job can be physically rigorous and emotionally demanding. It is important that you consider education training time, job responsibilities, certification requirements, and common salary earnings to know if becoming an HHA is the right healthcare career choice for you.
However, becoming an HHA also can be a rewarding healthcare career. HHAs help individuals remain independent and can improve their physical, emotional, and social well-being.
As an HHA, you will be reducing the amount of work and burden that patients and their caregivers as well as family members experience. You will be impacting others’ lives by giving them peace of mind and making a difference in their quality of life.