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Home Health Aide Careers - How to Become a Home Health Care Aide

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African home nurse reviewing prescription bottle with patient
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Home health care is one of the most rapidly growing areas of the healthcare industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts tremendous growth for home health careers from 2008-2018. Therefore, home health is among the most in demand health careers. One of the most prevalent careers in home health care is home health aide. If you are passionate about helping people or caring for others, a career as a home health aide may be for you, particularly if you are seeking a career that does not require a degree or extensive training.

What Does a Home Health Aide Do? Brief Overview:

Home health aides provide personal care for patients who need assistance for a variety of reasons including illness, advanced age, disability, or cognitive impairment. Home health aides may work with patients as part of a hospice care program also.

A typical day for a home health aide can vary greatly depending on the type of patient and condition being treated. Home health aides may help with any personal care task such as bathing, eating, moving, or going to the bathroom. Home health aids may also travel with the patient to assist with errands such as doctor appointments, grocery shopping, picking up medications, or if the patient is unable to leave the home, the home health aide may run these errands for the patient.

Home health aides may also even assist with light housekeeping duties such as cooking, cleaning, or laundry.

Additionally, home health aides may help with monitoring vital signs, assist with taking medications, and other very basic medical tasks.

Work Environment and Physical Demands for Home Health Aides:

Home health aides may work for an agency or directly for a patient's family. Either way, the home health aide typically works right in a patient's home that may be equipped with some basic medical equipment. Some home health aides work at residential care facilities. The job is often physically demanding due to the nature of the work, moving patients, and cleaning, and other physical tasks.

Some home health aides may work with multiple patients for a few hours per day or per week, while others may work their full week with one patient, depending on the needs of the patient or the agency. Sometimes, weekend or evening work may be required as well.

Education and Training Requirements for Home Health Aides:

Home health care aides are not required to have a college degree or high school diploma. Often, aides are trained on the job by nurses or other medical professionals. However, there are some certifications available, and some home health aides have training as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) or a certified nursing assistant (CNA).

Certification and Licensure:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, home health aides who work for agencies that are funded by Medicare or Medicaid must meet minimum standards of training. These standards include 75 hours of training, plus 16 hours of supervised practical work, plus passing a competency evaluation or state certification program. Some states require additional training.

A national certification is offered by the National Association of Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), but is not typically required for employment.

What's To Like About Home Health Aide Careers:

The job outlook is excellent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with growth projected to be over 50 percent, which is "much faster than average" job growth. That growth represents the addition of about a half a million new jobs or more by 2018.

Also, the job of a home health aide does not require a great deal of training or education. Also, people who are passionate about helping others will find the job very rewarding, because you can make a significant impact in the lives of people who may be very ill, near death, or very lonely or isolated, among others.

What's Not to Like About Home Health Aide Careers:

Advancement is very limited, but the career can be a great "stepping stone" to a higher level health career in a different capacity, while completing other degrees or training for those more specialized roles.

Additionally, because there is not a great deal of highly specialized medical training required to work as a home health aide, the pay is not very high as compared to many other medical careers.

Average Pay for Home Health Aides:

The average pay for home health aides is about $9.22 per hour, which equates to a little over $18,000 per year assuming a full-time, 40-hour work week. The mid-range is from $7.81 to $10.98 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Reference: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Home Health Aides and Personal and Home Care Aides, on the Internet. (Visited December 5, 2010).

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