September 9, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Home health aides or HHAs make a tremendous difference in the lives of the disabled, the sick and the elderly. By helping them with simple but essential personal tasks such as bathing, dressing and eating, and helping to keep their homes clean and safe, home health aides allow those who would otherwise be dependent on others the opportunity to live on their own. HHAs also arrange transportation and leisure activities for clients so that they do not get isolated in their homes but can instead become more engaged with their communities. In some cases, home health aides may also monitor vital signs or administer medication under the supervision of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
The opportunity to improve the quality of life for those in need through hands-on care and contact is a hugely motivating factor for those who choose this path. Another attraction is the low educational threshold that is required to enter this tremendously rewarding field of work.
Working as a home health aide does not necessarily mean working with clients only in private homes. Clients who need the help of an HHA may reside in an assisted living facility, retirement community or other type of transitional housing. Regardless of the exact work setting, most HHAs care for a single client at a time, although they may have several clients to visit in a single day. Home health aides are generally supervised by a patient’s healthcare provider or by the patient’s family members. Shift work may be necessary in some cases. How long you work with any one particular patient can vary widely from a few weeks to several years depending on the patient’s needs and abilities.
There is a comparatively low educational threshold for becoming an HHA, which is great news for anyone who enjoys helping others but does not want to go through the several years of training that it takes to become a fully-fledged nurse. Usually, preparation classes offered at vocational or technical schools is enough. However before you can practice on your own you will have to undergo training by experienced HHAs and other healthcare professionals so you can learn the necessary skills on the job. Every client has their own unique needs and depending on the complexity of the care required, you may have to undergo short-term specialised training so you are proficient enough to render the necessary assistance.
While the tasks involved may not be highly specialised, they can often be physically demanding so good health and strength are necessary. Patience, good interpersonal skills and reliability are equally important. You also need to have excellent time management skills as you may need to visit several homes in one day and being late for one visit can quickly roll over resulting in a chaotic day on the job.
With regards to advancement opportunities, an HHA with a high school diploma will have more opportunities to further their education and training to become medical assistants or other health professionals. A non-certified HHA with less than a high school education will have fewer opportunities for advancement.