What Is a Home Health Aide?

Job Description

Home Health Aide
A home health aide checks her patient's blood pressure. Michael DeLeon / E+ / Getty Images

A home health aide cares for people who have disabilities, chronic illnesses, cognitive impairments, or age-related problems. He or she provides basic services that include administering medications, changing bandages, and checking vital signs like temperature, and pulse and respiration rates.

Although a home health aide works independently, he or she is supervised by a medical professional, usually a registered nurse.

Do not confuse home health aides with personal care aides who don't provide medical services of any type.

Quick Facts

  • In 2016, home health aides earned a median annual salary of $22,600 and hourly wages of $10.87.
  • There were 914,000 people employed in this occupation in 2014.
  • Home healthcare agencies employ most individuals, usually deploying them to patients homes.
  • Jobs are typically full time. Schedules often require work on weekends, evenings, and holidays. Overnight shifts and live-in shifts are not uncommon.
  • Because of its excellent job outlook—employment growth is expected to be much faster than the average for all occupations through 2024—the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has designated this a "Bright Outlook" occupation.

A Day in the Life of a Home Health Aide

Learn about the job duties you can expect if you choose this career.  Job announcements in Indeed.com revealed that home health aides:

  • "Help clients with dressing and undressing and maintaining proper clothing"
  • "Provide personal services such as bathing and grooming"
  • "Accompany patient to doctors visits"
  • "Oversee administration of prescribed medications"
  • "Assist clients who are unable to handle day-to-day homemaking duties in their homes"
  • "Follow a care plan for the client and report on completed tasks"

Educational and Training Requirements

Although you don't need a high school diploma to become a home health aide, most people who work in this field have one. Since those are the job candidates with whom you will be competing, it makes sense for you to stay in school.

Home health aides receive on-the-job training from registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, or experienced aides. Some states require anyone working in this occupation to have formal training which vocational schools, community colleges, and home health care agencies provide.

Home health aides who work for agencies that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement must, according to United States law, complete a state approved training program and a competency evaluation (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Home Health Agencies: State Operations Manual [PDF]). Some states place even more stringent requirements on agencies receiving Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. In addition, several states license, certify or register home health aides. See the Licensed Occupation Tool on CareerOneStop for information about the requirements in individual states.

What Soft Skills Do You Need to Succeed in This Career?

  • Interpersonal Skills: In addition to stellar listening and verbal communication skills, you must be able to connect with your patients and their families on a personal level. It is essential to gain their trust so you can make them feel safe and comfortable.
  • Time Management Skills: You will have many tasks to complete during your shift. The ability to prioritize them will help you get everything done.
  • Detail Oriented: Home health aides must keep track of a lot of things—medications, vital signs, and appointments, for example. The ability to pay attention to details is imperative.
  • Physical Stamina: You will have to lift clients and perform other tasks that require strength.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

Here are some requirements from actual job announcements found on Indeed.com:

  • "Basic ability to communicate and comprehend"
  • "Has own reliable transportation"
  • "Respectful, kind, patient, dedicated, reliable, dependable, and helpful"
  • "Emotional and mental maturity necessary for establishing and maintaining a good working relationship with the clients, client’s family, and the personnel of the agency"
  • "Caring and compassionate personality"
  • "The ability to work effectively with people of diverse cultures and backgrounds in a fast paced, stressful environment"

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

Related Occupations

 DescriptionMedian Annual Wage (2016)Minimum Required Education/Training
Nursing AssistantsProvide basic care to hospital and nursing home patients$26,590HS or Equivalency Diploma + State-approved Training Program
Occupational Therapy AidesPrepare treatment rooms and equipment for occupational therapists$28,330HS or Equivalency Diploma + On-the-Job Training
Medical AssistantsPerforms clinical or administrative tasks, or both, in a medical office$31,540HS or Equivalency Diploma + 1-2 Year Training Program

Sources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited September 9, 2017).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited September 9, 2017).