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Home Health Aide Job Description, Career as a Home Health Aide, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Varies—see profile

Salary: Median—$8.81 per hour

Employment Outlook: Excellent

Definition and Nature of the Work

Home health aides provide health care services in homes. Their clients include the elderly or people with long-term illnesses or disabilities. Home health aides work for hospitals and health care agencies.

Health aides provide a variety of services for their clients. They give them baths and massages and change bandages if necessary. Sometimes they help them to get dressed, do exercises, and get in and out of bed. Aides see that their clients take their medicine, although they cannot prescribe drugs themselves.

Aides often help with household chores. They may change bed linens and do some light laundry or cleaning. Sometimes they take clients for walks or rides. They may read to them or just keep them company.

In some cases, home health aides instruct clients and their families in health care. For example, they may teach a new mother how to care for her baby, or they may show parents how to help a handicapped child. Sometimes aides move into a client's home for a period of time.

Education and Training Requirements

Some employers prefer to hire high school graduates, but a high school diploma is not necessary to enter this field. Volunteer work and part-time or summer jobs in hospitals are good experience. Training courses for home health aides are generally about two to three weeks long. Hospitals, adult education schools, health departments, and volunteer agencies offer these courses. Many home health Home health aids provide a variety of services to people who cannot care for themselves. (© Peter M. Fisher/Corbis.) aides receive on-the-job training under the supervision of a registered nurse. Federal law suggests seventy-five hours of both classroom and practical training. Some states require home health aides to be certified. The federal government also has guidelines for home health aides whose employers receive reimbursement from Medicare. They must pass a competency test covering twelve areas that include reading and recording vital signs, basic nutrition, personal hygiene and grooming, and knowledge of emergency procedures. Aides must be in good health. They should also be patient, understanding, and cheerful.

Getting the Job

Apply to local health care agencies or to hospitals for jobs. You can also check newspaper want ads and job banks on the Internet. State and private employment agencies may also list openings for home health aides.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

With further education, a home health aide can become a teaching health aide or a licensed practical nurse. The employment outlook for home health aides is expected to grow faster than the average through the year 2014. In fact, it is expected to be one of the fastest-growing occupations. This trend reflects several developments. First, hospitals are making an increased effort to contain costs by moving patients out of hospitals quickly without compromising their health. Second, studies have shown that treatment often proves to be more effective in familiar rather than clinical surroundings. Third, improvements in portable medical technology have made in-home treatment a feasible alternative to hospitalization. Finally, an increase in the elderly population is certain in the years ahead. This should provide many openings in this field and a shortage of workers.

Working Conditions

Home health aides generally work a forty-hour week. They might spend four hours at one home in the morning and four hours at another in the afternoon. Part-time work is sometimes available. Aides are sometimes needed on weekends and overnight. Aides work with many different kinds of people and in many different kinds of homes. Some aides might live with a client for a period of time to provide round-the-clock care.

Where to Go for More Information

American Hospital Association
325 7th St. NW
Washington, DC 20004-2802
(202) 638-1100

National Association for Home Care & Hospice
228 7th St. SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 547-7424

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings vary depending on experience. In 2004 the median hourly earnings for aides was $8.81 per hour. Most aides are paid on a per-visit basis, and most employers do not supply benefits. Aides are not usually paid for their travel time going from one client to another.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine