What Are Home Health Aides?
Home health aides work closely with clients to provide assistance with day-to-day activities, such as bathing, dressing, grooming and eating. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, home health aides can work with many different types of individuals, including those who are disabled, cognitively impaired, elderly, chronically ill, or otherwise need regular assistance. In some cases, home health aides might provide light housekeeping services, or monitor vital signs and administer medication under the supervision of a nurse or physician (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). For more information, see our home health aides career page.
Home Health Aide Program Information
Working as a home health aide generally has no formal educational requirement, according to the BLS. Career skills are often learned on the job, and this experience can often count towards becoming certified in states that require it. However, there are formal postsecondary programs available, and some states and employers require, or at least prefer it. These programs can be found at community colleges, technical schools, nursing homes, hospitals, online schools and health organizations.
Students who enter home health aide programs receive instruction in a number of areas, including safety, basic medical care, basic anatomy and physiology, effective communication, personal care, proper nutrition, and other points of care that might be necessary for the home health aide. Some programs are designed specifically for certified nursing aides who are looking to work in home healthcare settings.
Home Health Aide Program Types
The following programs are available to those who want to work as home health aides:
- Certificate/Diploma: These home health aide programs vary greatly in length, with some potentially taking as little as a month to complete and others taking six months or more of full-time study. They focus on the basic knowledge and skills required to become a home health aide, including points about personal care, basic medical care, emergency care, communication, rehabilitation, safety and physical assistance. Diploma and certificate programs can be taken entirely online, in person or in a hybrid format.
Home health aide programs may help students prepare for state exams, as well as a separate exam (in lieu of other training requirements) that allows them to work in facilities that accept Medicare. State health boards can provide detailed information about what courses, exams, and training are required for home health aides.
Home Health Aide Course Descriptions
While every program is different, basic courses at home health aide schools generally cover the same knowledge and skills. These are some of the typical courses one can expect from home health aide programs:
- Safety: Assessing safety concerns such as trip hazards, transmittable diseases, safe bathing, bloodborne pathogens and the like.
- Home Care Basics: Providing care in the home, from grooming to bathing to feeding.
- Communications: Learning to communicate effectively with patients, families, insurance companies, etc.
- Skin Care: Treatment of ulcers, bed sores, radiation and chemotherapy side effects, and other personal care issues.
- End of Life Care: Understanding DNR orders, states of grief, living wills, legal issues, and palliative care.
- Body Mechanics: Learning proper alignment and posture, techniques for moving patients and more.
- Medical Maintenance: Handling catheters, oxygen therapy, blood sugar testing, cast care and other medical care issues.
Related Career Options
Those who choose to complete home health aide courses might choose to pursue further education that allows them to work in related careers. Career paths that might interest those in home healthcare include but are not limited to:
- Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurses: Working with patients to monitor vital signs and provide basic nursing care. Requires one year of formal postsecondary training and state licensure.
- Nurse Assistants: Providing basic day-to-day care for patients, such as bathing or grooming, in medical or nursing facilities. Requires postsecondary training and completion of a state proficiency exam.
- Medical Assistants: Handling administrative and clinical tasks in offices of physicians and similar settings. Formal education is not a requirement in most states, but postsecondary programs can favor those who have it.
Links to Sources and Associations
Visit the following websites to find out more about working as a home health aide: