A home health aide is responsible for providing health care to patients typically in their home, but also in other health care settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, group homes, public and private schools and assisted living facilities. They give their patients first aid, dispense medications under the supervision of an RN and provide care in emergency situations among many other duties. In some facilities such as elementary and high schools, they will administer hearing and eye tests.
A Home Health Aide can also go by the titles of personal care attendant, residential care aide or personal support worker.
The classes in any good home health aide training school will include how to assist the patient with daily living activities related to dressing, bathing, and meal preparation. Classes also will be in personal care in the nature of medications and how to dispense them, nutrition, safety and basic medical care.
In addition to this training in providing physical comfort to the patient, you will learn psychological support to aid patients who may be suffering from dementia or dealing with developmental difficulties.
The educational requirements for becoming a home health aide will include some on-the-job training, which is usually provided the health aide by the employer. You should have a high school diploma as this will help greatly in landing that first job, but not all health aides have a high school diploma – they learned by on-the-job and classroom training provided by the health care facility in which they work. You can’t count on finding such an employer, though.
Many states require formal training under a certificate program, generally available from community colleges, vocation/technical schools or an elder care agency. Some areas of the United States require health aides to have an associate degree in home health care.
You will enjoy a career as a home health aide if you have a strong desire to help people, are not bothered by hard work, have compassion for people, are dependable and have a cheerful attitude. No one who is sick deserves to be cared for by a grump.
There are online programs available if there is no suitable health aide program in your area. Look for a school approved by the DETC – Distance Education Training Council. Also check local laws before you decide on any training school, online or not. Some states require health aide certificates to consist of a specific number of hours.
Once you become a health aide, you can expect to be entering a field which, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has a projected growth rate of 46-50% increase in employment between 2008 and 2018 due to the growth in numbers of the aging population. An average beginning salary for the health aide in 2009 was 23,000 per year.
If you are looking to become a health aide working specifically as a home health aide, you should know that this area may require frequent lifting of patients and equipment. Remember, it’s you and your patient, no colleagues to call on for help in this situation. Home health aides generally spend part of their day traveling from client to client and in addition to providing basic health care assistance, they may perform light housekeeping like changing bed sheets and doing laundry. Home health aides must possess patience and sensitivity due to the personal nature of the work within a diverse client base. Home health aide employment would appeal to the compassionate person seeking variety in their work day.