Home health aides who work for agencies receiving Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements must meet specific training requirements, including classes in personal hygiene, basic nutrition, infection control and reading and recording vital signs. Because the home health aide is often the only person in the home with a patient, classes in emergency response, first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation are essential. Hands-on practice and a competency evaluation are also required for agency work as a home health aide.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some states allow this training to happen on-the-job, while others require that home health aides receive formal training. Home health aides can also pursue certification, which along with formal training and continuing education tends to increase one's opportunities for initial employment and for advancement.
Community colleges and vocational schools often offer home health aide certificate programs, which meet the required training requirements for agency work. These certificate programs are usually one semester in length and include classroom work on topics such as medical terminology, provision of patient support and health care supervision, along with hands-on practice.
Voluntary certification through the National Association for Home Care and Hospice requires 75 hours of classroom training, observation and documentation of skills selected to demonstrate competency and successful completion of a written exam. Another certification option is that of certified nurse assistant, which requires 75 hours of state-regulated training and a comprehensive home health exam. Many agencies hire certified nurse assistants as home health aides, because the training and skills are quite similar.