How to Start Home Health Aide Training Right Now: The Ultimate Guide (2017 Edition)

You’re tired of simply going from job to job with little or no opportunity for advancement, so it’s time for a career you can be happy with and successful in long term!

You’ve decided the healthcare field is for you and want pursue home health aide training – and it’s exciting!

But now what?

​You need to know how to get your home health aide certification!

You’ve heard stories about searching for programs, state exams, federal requirements, hours of studying, and aren’t sure what needs to be done first…

So, it’s easiest to start at the beginning!

This article will break down your home health aide journey in five easy steps, from finding the training program that’s right for you to advancing your career.

1. DETERMINE IF THIS CAREER FIELD IS RIGHT FOR YOU

Choosing a career is not always a quick or easy decision!

You will be putting your most valuable resources - time and energy - into your training and future job. You want to make sure they are well spent, right?

Consider these key points as you make your decision:

What is a certified home health aide?

Let’s define it. What is a certified home health aide?

You’ve heard the term before, but you’re not exactly sure:

What does a home health aide do?

Though the exact job description of a caregiver can vary by state and agency, generally a home health aide is a:

Trained and certified health-care worker who provides assistance to a patient in the home with personal care (as hygiene and exercise) and light household duties (as meal preparation) and who monitors the patient’s condition - abbreviated HHA

Merriam-Webster.com

This type of work is not for the faint of heart!

The elderly and disabled people who require the assistance of a healthcare professional in their home would likely benefit most by having a HHA with the right characteristics - one who is sympathetic, caring, and able to endure through the difficult tasks at hand.

No doubt a HHA with a positive attitude would also go a long way in helping their patients stay motivated and happy in their day to day living.

Here's an awesome example:

If this home health aide job description sounds like you, then it sounds like you’re on the right track to starting the career of your dreams!

What are the duties of a home health aide?

What are the duties of a home health aide?

What is the number one goal of patients who hire home health aides?

It’s pretty simple:

They want to maintain professional medical care in the comfort of their own home.

Every task performed by a home health aide is meant to support that goal!

Career and resume posting sites can give an excellent general idea of what a home health aide can expect in their day to day activities, since they see people apply and hire for these positions every day!

home health aide duties checklist

In their free resource center Monster.com lists out some typical home health aide duties and responsibilities that employers look for in resumes of potential employees, which include:

  • “Monitors patient condition by observing physical and mental condition, intake and output, and exercise.
  • Supports patients by providing housekeeping and laundry services; shopping for food and other household requirements; preparing and serving meals and snacks; running errands.
  • Assists patients by providing personal services, such as, bathing, dressing, and grooming.
  • Helps patients care for themselves by teaching use of cane or walker, special utensils to eat, special techniques and equipment for personal hygiene.
  • Helps family members care for the patient by teaching appropriate ways to lift, turn, and re-position the patient; advising on nutrition, cleanliness, and housekeeping.
  • Records patient information by making entries in the patient journal; notifying nursing supervisor of changing or unusual conditions.
  • Maintains a safe, secure, and healthy patient environment by following asepses standards and procedures; maintaining security precautions; following prescribed dietary requirements and nutrition standards;
  • Updates job knowledge by participating in educational opportunities.
  • Protects the home care agency by adhering to professional standards, home care policies and procedures, federal, state, and local requirements.
  • Enhances service reputation by accepting ownership for accomplishing new and different requests; exploring opportunities to add value to job accomplishments.”
Monster.com

Here's a great video from Prairie River Home Care, "A Day in the Life of a Home Health Aide." 

BE SURE TO KEEP IN MIND:

Just like the job description, exact duties assigned to a home health aide may vary by state and agency.

2. RESEARCH THE HHA TRAINING THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU

Not everyone learns in the same style, and not everyone has the same resources to attend the same type of training.

It is important to remember that there are many options available, and you are sure to find the right one for you!

It just takes a little research to get started:

HHA training

Where can I get home health aide training?

Not all states require formal training to be a home health aide, but most do.

If you plan to work for a home health agency that receives patient reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid, you will be required to complete the minimum federal requirements for training.

Your state’s health department will be able to confirm if training is required.

For states that do require training:

HHA training is available through a variety of schools, agencies, and formats depending on where in the country you live. As you research your program, consider the options that may work best for you.

  • Would you prefer a quick program that will get you working in the field quickly? Perhaps you should check with some local home health agencies to see if they offer free training to potential employees.
  • Is your budget limited? Why not check with your local state assistance agencies to see if your circumstances qualify you for free or low-cost training.
  • Would you benefit more from a program that is a little longer and more in depth? Maybe it’s a good idea to check out the local community colleges in your area to see if they offer HHA training in an upcoming term or semester.
  • Does your schedule or transportation limit the amount of time you can spend in a classroom? Checking out HHA training online might be a way to go for you.

Check out this great video from American River College in California. 

home health aide online training

Can I get my home health aide certification online?

Yes, HHA training is available online!

When looking into distance learning programs, you have to consider the expenses the school must cover to create the convenience you receive to learn the material on your own terms.

So the bottom line is:

Receiving an online HHA certification will cost you some money.

A program like Ashworth College’s home health aide course starts at $559.

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If you happen to find programs offering free HHA training online or for cheap, they are unlikely to be legitimate.

Be sure you thoroughly review the program curriculum and accreditation before signing up to make sure you are not wasting your time on a program that will not benefit you.

If the program's website looks or feels sketchy, that’s probably because it is.

And while some people prefer it, the online learning format is not for everyone. As you research your programs, consider:

  • Online academies are unlikely to be local to your area. You may not have immediate answers to your questions that come up during your training.
  • You will be responsible for setting your learning schedule. Many people prefer this, and it’s why they seek out online classes. If you prefer pre-set structure, though, an in-person class may be a better option for you.
  • Since they are geared toward those wishing to have a flexible schedule, HHA trainings online may take longer to complete than courses in a traditional classroom.

If you find a home health aide online training program that may be right for you, be sure to check with your state and some desired future employers to be sure your certification will be acceptable.

home health aide training requirements

Are there requirements to apply for home health aide training?

Most types of schooling have some sort of entrance standards to begin training, and HHA training is no different.

​Typical home health aide training requirements include:

  • A successful health assessment, which may involve:
    • Clean toxicology screening
    • A negative TB test within the last six months
    • Current immunizations
  • Life time search of expanded criminal background check
  • Fingerprinting
  • Ability to read and write at a competent level
    • While no formal high school diploma or GED is necessary to be a home health aide, some programs may require it.

In addition to typical entrance requirements, agencies that offer free training to potential employees may also look for these things:

  • Reliable work history and references
  • Appropriate ID and proof of eligibility to work in the US
  • Ability to participate in a professional interview, either by phone or in person
  • A flexible schedule
    • To accommodate 100% training attendance. Agencies often have a zero absence policy that must be signed prior to the start of class.
    • To accommodate future work schedule, which could include nights, weekends, and holidays.

home health aide training cost

How much does home health aide training cost?

It depends.

​That’s an answer nobody wants to hear, I know.

But cost can truly vary, from free to upwards of $1500, and is decided by a number of factors:

Things like where in the country your training is located, who regulates your training facility, and what type of funds your training facility accepts from patients as compensation can all have an affect on the out-of-pocket expense you may owe.

free HHA classes

​Is it possible to find free home health aide training?

Yes!

Free home health aide certification is possible!

​You just have to know where to look:

For example, looking for training in the nation’s capital? Free home health aide classes in DC are offered to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) recipients.

If you’re looking for free home health aide training in Queens NY, the state specifies programs that receive their approval through the state Health Department may not charge tuition, while those who receive approval through the NY Education Department may charge tuition.

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If you are located in the Big Apple and are looking for free HHA classes, check out our in-depth post on how to find free HHA training in NYC.

​Programs like Always Home Care’s may require payment up front, but offer reimbursement plans for home health aide training in NJ.

It is also not uncommon to find home health agencies willing to provide free HHA training and job placement to eligible participants, provided they meet entrance requirements and agree to an employment contract upon their successful completion.

If you are interested in free home health aide training, check with some of the following local offices in your area to see if they have programs you may qualify for:

How long is HHA training?

How long is HHA training?

You can expect a minimum of 75 hours of instruction.

If that sounds like too many hours to be sitting in a classroom listening to an instructor lecture endlessly, fear not!

You wouldn’t be alone if you consider yourself a hands-on learner, and it’s just one of the reasons why home health aide training might be right for you!

It has been shown that students who are allowed to put their skills to the test as they learn have increased retention, more personal confidence, and enhanced critical thinking.

No doubt home health aides benefit from such traits as they enter the field – and it’s no wonder your training includes this type of education!

Your home health aide program will include a combination of classroom and supervised practical training.

“Supervised practical training” means you will have the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge you acquired in the classroom in a laboratory or other setting – hands-on training at it’s finest!

While federal law does not specify the amount of time that must be spent in each, it does dictate that at least 16 hours of classroom training be provided prior to a student beginning their minimum 16 hours of supervised practical training.

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LOOKING AHEAD:

It’s likely minimum instruction requirements will increase to meet the demands of this growing field. In fact, some states are already adjusting their standards to meet anticipated updated expectations.

​The Institute of Medicine recently released a report suggesting minimum training be increased from 75 to 120 hours.

​Thinking about it in context, one could argue this suggested increase in training hours confirms The Bureau of Labor Statistics prediction the HHA field will grow by 38% between 2014 and 2024. Increased training to meet increasing demands – makes sense, right?

free 2 week HHA training

Is it possible to get free 2 week HHA training?

Yes!

​It is not uncommon for free HHA training programs to have strict attendance policies, which are meant to accommodate the rigorous training schedules.

​Programs like Home Aides of Central New York's, for example, offer their 75 hours of training via 12 unpaid classroom days and 2 paid supervised clinical experience days, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday.

3. COMPLETE A STATE APPROVED HHA TRAINING PROGRAM

You know you’ve got what it takes to be a successful home health aide, and you know which type of training program will work best for you.

​But what happens once you’re actually in class?

HHA classes

What will I learn during my HHA classes?

​You can expect a variety of topics to be covered.

​While programs may include information that is specific to your state, all home health aide classes must include the topics outlined below, per the Code of Federal Regulations 484.36:

  • ​“Communication skills
  • Observation, reporting, and documentation of patient status and the care or service furnished
  • Reading and recording temperature, pulse, and respiration
  • Basic infection control procedure
  • Basic elements of body functioning and changes in body function that must be reported to an aide’s supervisor
  • Maintenance of a clean, safe, and healthy environment
  • Recognizing emergencies and knowledge of emergency procedures
  • The physical, emotional, and developmental needs of and ways to work with the populations served by the home health agency, including the need for respect for the patient, his or her privacy and his or her property
  • Appropriate and safe techniques in personal hygiene and grooming that include:
    • ​Bed bath
    • ​Sponge, tub, or shower bath
    • ​Shampoo, sink, tub, or bed
    • ​Nail and skin care
    • Oral hygiene
    • Toileting and elimination
  • Safe transfer techniques and ambulation
  • Normal range of motion and positioning
  • Adequate nutrition and fluid intake
  • Any other task that the hiring agency may choose to have the home health aide perform”
GPO.gov

While it’s important to understand the state and federal requirements of the job, you should also take some time to consider some personal aspects – namely, the type of environment you would be comfortable working in every day. Kelli Hansen, RN, lists nine things, as an example:

  1. Are you comfortable going into a patient’s house alone?
  2. Would you be willing to work in an area that may experience a higher rate of crime?
  3. Are you self-motivating, requiring little direction from a supervisor?
  4. Are you able to interact directly with a patient’s family comfortably?
  5. Are you able to provide adequate care in a patient’s home, even if it is cluttered or unsanitary?
  6. What is your preferred work pace? Do you need an environment that is slow and focused, or fast and exciting?
  7. Can you properly lift and move your patient without injuring yourself?
  8. Do you have allergies to mold or pets? Would you be able to work in a home where either is present?
  9. Would you be comfortable providing care to a patient of the opposite sex?
Kelli Hansen, RN 
InnerBody.com
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LOOKING AHEAD:

You want to be sure to consider all facets of the job as you begin your journey as a HHA. After all, your ultimate goal is long-term success and happiness in your career! Your work environment will surely play a role in both aspects.

home health aide training in spanish

Can I take my home health aide training in Spanish or any other languages?

Yes!

HHA classes can be taught in a variety of languages, and are likely to be more available in areas with a higher demand.

Keep in mind that all programs and instructors must receive the appropriate state approvals to be valid. This means that programs approved in English cannot simply be taught in another language - the additional language must be approved as well.

Contact your state’s health department to be directed to approved non-English programs in your area.

Who teaches a home health aide class?

Who teaches a home health aide class?

​Receiving an education in the healthcare field is no joke, and your home health aide training is no different!

​No worries, though:

​Your teacher will know their stuff!

​Every part of your program will require instruction by or under the direct supervision of a registered nurse. This RN will have no less than two years of experience, with at least one year directly providing home health care.

​In other words, they’ll have been there and done that! Who better to learn your skills from?

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LOOKING AHEAD:

Once you are a working home health aide, if your patient is one who receives skilled nursing care, you will receive your patient’s assignment and written care instructions from a registered nurse (or other supervising professional, if the patient is under the care of a physical therapist or other doctor, for example).

Your supervising RN will then be required to conduct on-site visits at least every two weeks.

If you are caring for a patient that does not receive skilled nursing care, you will still have supervisory visits from a RN at least every 60 days.

Since these visits occur less frequently, your RN will be sure to conduct their visit while you – the home health aide – are providing care to the patient. This method helps to confirm your patient is receiving the proper attention.

home health aide job requirements for certification

Am I required to take my training again if I was previously certified?

​Some states allow a home health aide competency test or evaluation to be performed instead of repeating training.

​The evaluation contains a written exam and demonstration of necessary skills.

​For example, the state of New York lists some reasons you may be eligible to complete the competency evaluation, and they include:

  • ​“A nursing assistant with one year of full-time experience in a general hospital within the past five (5) years;
  • An individual with documented home health aide or nurse aide training and competency evaluation from an out-of-state training program;
  • A home health aide with documented home health aide training and competency evaluation who has not been employed as a home health aide for 24 consecutive months;
  • A nursing student who has documented evidence of successful completion of course work requiring mastery of home health aide tasks within the past 24 months. Documentation would include a transcript with passing grade(s) and course description(s) or skills checklist signed by the nursing school instructor.
  • Veterans who were trained in the United States Military as medical technicians or medics”.
Health.NY.gov

Your state’s health department or a local home health agency will help you to determine if you are eligible.

4. COMPLETE THE REQUIRED EVALUATIONS AND HHA CERTIFICATION

​You did it!

​You attended all of your required training hours and didn’t miss a day.

​So what’s next? You need to know how to become a home health aide!

home health aide practice test questions

What can I expect the home health aide test to be like?

​It’s time for the HHA exam you’ve heard so much about!

​Once you have completed the required classroom and supervised practical training, the Code of Federal Regulations specifies that a competency evaluation must be performed before you begin working in your field.

​This final evaluation will combine a written or oral exam and a demonstration of the skills you learned during your training.

​While exact testing standards may vary by state and agency, they must all require:

  • ​An evaluation performed by a registered nurse
  • Evaluation observing the student’s performance of:
    • Communication skills
    • Reading and recording temperature, pulse, and respiration
    • Appropriate and safe techniques in personal hygiene and grooming that include:
      • Bed bath
      • Sponge, tub, or shower bath
      • Shampoo, sink, tub or bed
      • Nail and skin care
      • Oral hygiene
      • Toileting and elimination
    • Safe transfer techniques and ambulation
    • Normal range of motion and positioning
  • All other topics discussed in training may be evaluated using written or oral examination
  • Any task evaluated as “unsatisfactory” may not be performed by the student aide without the direct supervision of a licensed nurse
    • Additional training of the task will be required and additional evaluations will be performed until determined “satisfactory”
  • A home health aide is considered to have successfully passed the competency evaluation once all tasks are marked “satisfactory”
GPO.gov
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LOOKING AHEAD:

It’s never too early to start preparing!

​Take advantage of home health aide practice test questions that are available and get a head start on your studying!

HHA certification

Do I need a home health aide certification to work as a HHA?

​Not all states require a HHA certification for employed home health aides, but many employers can still require it due to preference.

​States that do require it often issue home health aide certifications once an individual completes an approved training program and competency evaluation. In these instances your training facility will likely assist you in completing the certification process.

​Many times, official certifications are submitted to a state office and can be tracked through online registries. Certifications usually remain valid as long as skills are used regularly and continuing education requirements are met.

​Your state’s health department or local home health agencies are good resources for specific answers regarding your state’s regulations.

BE SURE TO KEEP IN MIND:

While training can be free, sometimes there are out of pocket expenses associated with the certification process. There may be fees for things like:

  • Fingerprinting
  • Background check
  • Certification exam
  • Testing resources and materials
requirements to be a home health aide

Are there continuing education requirements to be a home health aide?

​Yep.

​Exact requirements can vary by state and agency, but you can expect a minimum of:

  • ​A performance review no less than every 12 months by a qualified home health agency
  • At least 12 hours of in-service training during every 12 month period (as a bonus, this in-service training can be completed while you are providing care to your patient)
  • In-service training to be conducted under the general supervision of a qualified registered nurse
  • The RN will have a minimum of two years nursing experience, with at least one year directly providing home care

In other words, you will be a lifelong learner!

5. ​KNOW YOUR INDUSTRY

The folks at the Bureau of Labor Statistics crunch a bunch of numbers, all day, every day, so that we can know impressive information like this about home health aide jobs:

home health aide salary

​What factors can affect a home health aide salary?

Just like any industry, there are many things that can have an impact on the kind of salary you will make as a home health aide:

Like where in the country you’re located and the overall growth of the field.

The BLS lists a few key items for us:

  • The rate of growth for the home health aide industry is 38% - much higher than average for other professions analyzed by the BLS
  • 2015 saw an average annual salary of $21,920 for home health aides across the country, with the highest 10% of workers seeing wages upwards of $29,950
  • There were more than 913,500 jobs for home health aides in 2014, and 348,400 more are expected to be added by 2024

The top five states with the highest paying home health aide salary are:

North Dakota - $30,160
Alaska- $30,160
Deleware- $28,910
Massachusetts - $28,680
California- $27,580
HHA salary top five states - bls.gov

The top five states with the highest employment level in this field are:

New York - 162,240
Ohio - 65,010
Texas - 62,930
Pennsylvania - 51,300
N. Carolina - 47,750
home health aide employment top five states - bls.gov
home health aide resume

Is it important to have a home health aide resume?

​You bet!

​You’ve probably heard of the game “Six degrees of separation,” right?

​Well turn those “degrees” into “seconds” and that’s the average amount of time you have to impress a potential employer.

​Surprised?

​A famous study by TheLadders found that recruiters spend an average of only six seconds reviewing an individual resume.

Talk about needing to make a good first impression! So as you begin to put fingertips-to-keyboard for your first resume draft, there are no doubt some important things to keep in mind.

This study emphasized the importance of:

  • ​Being organized - make sure your resume is laid out in a manner that is easy to follow
  • Being clear - use the “less is more” approach, and make sure information on your resume is concise and to the point
  • Being detail oriented - pay attention to keywords in open job descriptions and use your resume to explain how you are the best fit
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LOOKING AHEAD:

As you pursue your career, keep your network in mind! In addition to a stellar resume, a home health aide reference letter can set your application ahead of the rest.

​As you apply for positions that interest you, ask your professional contacts, like instructors or supervisors, if they would mind writing a letter of reference for you.

​These letters can showcase your skills and work ethic, and further support why you are the right person for the job!

home health aide training and job placement

What are some good resources to start applying for home health aide jobs?

We have seen that opportunities for amazing home health aide jobs are out there, but sometimes abundant opportunity can be overwhelming!

​So where do you start?

Keep these resources in mind:

  • ​Local home health agencies that offer free training often offer an employment contract once training is complete
  • Indeed.com
  • Monster.com
  • Care.com
  • Careerbuilder.com
  • Snagajob.com

Finding open positions to apply for is exciting! But finding an open position that combines your chosen career with benefits that may be important to you while employed is more exciting.

​Keep some of these factors in mind as you browse job openings:

  • ​Does the company offer appropriate work/life balance?
  • Is the work schedule offered one you can accommodate?
  • Do they offer paid time off?
  • What do the company benefits look like?
  • Do they offer advancement opportunities?
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LOOKING AHEAD:

You are looking for a long-term career, so it is important to find a good compromise of the benefits that are important to you as you submit applications.

HHA training related occupations

What are some opportunities for advancement or related careers?

​Many people consider advancement opportunities as one of the key factors in their happiness on the job. Training as a home health aide is beneficial for many reasons, but especially because of the wide array of experience it provides in the healthcare field!

​Examples of career paths for home health aides include:

Medical Assistants

  • Medical assistants work in a variety of medical settings, from small private practices to large hospitals. Their job duties can vary from “front end” office work to “back end” medical tasks with direct patient contact.
  • 2015 median pay $30,590

Ultrasound Technician

  • These techs focus their training on operation of special imaging equipment. Specialists, surgeons, and physicians can utilize the images and test results created to help treat and diagnose medical conditions.
  • 2015 median pay $63,630

Registered Nurse

  • Registered nurses (RNs) are constantly on the move. They provide essential patient care, and relay important information to patients, their families, and the public. Just as significantly, RNs also assist patients and their family members with emotional support and advice as they navigate difficult medical situations.
  • 2015 median pay $67,490

Examples of occupations with job descriptions similar to home health aides include:

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

  • Sometimes referred to as “nursing aides” or “CNAs,” these medical professionals help with basic care for those in long-term care facilities or hospitals. CNA training has similar requirements and curriculum to HHA training.
  • 2015 median pay $25,710

Personal Care Aides

  • Patients looking for assistance with self-care or everyday tasks often hire personal care aides (PCAs). A large part of their job entails providing important social support to help their patients function.
  • 2015 median pay $20,980

Physical Therapy Assistants

  • Often referred to as PTAs, these workers operate under the direct supervision of physical therapists. Their main job is to help patients recover from illness or injury by helping to manage pain and regain movement.
  • 2015 median pay $42,980

Social and Human Services Assistants

  • These assistants provide a variety of family and individual services, not limited to: psychological, rehabilitative, and social work. They can also assist social workers directly, helping their clients find appropriate government benefits or community services.
  • 2015 median pay $30,830
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