Hiring home health aides: Job skills to look for
Are you looking to hire home health aides? Also known as HHAs, these workers often spend long hours alone with clients. They’re charged with ensuring health and safety, so recruiting for these positions is serious business.
Over the coming years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts home health aides will increase by 70 percent as the demands for assistance and companionship continue to rise. That’s why it’s important to know what to look for in the hiring process.
This article will cover ways to interview, source, and close the deal when hiring home health aides, with some practical tips from the experts.
Home health aide certification and training
Agencies and other home health providers typically require HHAs to hold a high school diploma or GED. Generally, there’s no certification requirement for home health aides, but all 50 states mandate a minimum of 75 hours of training. They may train at community colleges, vocational or technical schools, on the job, or with a nonprofit organization such as the American Red Cross. The National Association for Home Care & Hospice offers the certification exam as well as training. Some states don’t require criminal background checks for HHAs, but all employers should.
“In New York State, home health aides must have a minimum 75 hours training, including 16 hours of supervised training in areas such as nutrition, infectious disease control and patient confidentiality,” says Roger Noyes, a spokesperson for the Home Care Association of New York State. Some agencies aren’t certified for Medicare patients under Medicare’s Conditions of Participation, says Noyes. These agencies are more likely than others to hire home health aides with lesser qualifications.
Key home health aide skills
While home health care aides usually don’t need certification, they definitely need skills to care for patients in their homes. These skills include the ability to:
- Provide personal care to ensure the safety of clients in their own homes
- Monitor vital signs and give medication, when permitted by law
- Schedule doctor appointments and related transportation
- Prepare some meals and do light housekeeping
- Provide companionship, such as reading and talking to clients
“Our home health aides do bathing, dressing, grooming, meal prep and light housekeeping and de-cluttering,” says Ruth Farrago, director of operations at Humana Inc.’s SeniorBridge, a multistate home-care agency. “They make sure their patients get out of bed, and they arrange outings and transportation.”
Key home health aide experience
Most home health providers prefer that HHAs have some experience. Mature adults who have cared for a loved one may qualify, even without having specific training or work experience.
“A lot of providers run their own training programs,” says Noyes. “In many cases when agencies hire aides, they will retrain them, because they’ve got their own approach. Although we usually ask a minimum of one year of experience, we sometimes take new graduates of home health aide programs if they have significant, relevant life experience,” says Farrago. “We’ve done scrambled-eggs classes, because many of our caregivers come from other countries and don’t know how to make them.”
How home health aides are sourced
Some home health agencies regularly recruit graduates of training programs when hiring home health aides. Word of mouth, too, can yield high-quality candidates for HHAs. Another source is job postings, which should include shift and location information.
“The vast majority of our candidates come to us by word of mouth,” says Farrago. “We do open houses, go into communities, place ads in local publications, do job fairs and get involved with community organizations. Our best caregivers give us our best candidates,” says Farrago. “We have a referral bonus program.”
When interviewing home health aides
When interviewing candidates, have face-to-face meetings to assess communication skills. It’s important for home health aides to have a positive attitude, and the best way to assess this is often in person, when you can better read body language and other forms of non-verbal communication. Also, candidates should be tested for real-time problem-solving skills as they can face a wide range of situations that call for quick thinking.
“We use a number of tools, including a screening test and face-to-face interview with role-play questions,” says Farrago. “We ask real-life questions to see how the caregiver would think. Do they know when to call a supervisor? We assess their presentation and language skills, their comfort in speaking so we know who we’re hiring. And it helps us match caregivers with our clients.”
How to close the deal when hiring home health aides
Shifts matter in this business. If you’re recruiting, don’t try to talk a candidate into a shift he or she doesn’t want. Providers that subsidize health insurance premiums and offer a 401(k) plan have a big advantage in the hiring process. Among experienced home health workers, the reputation of the agency is also very important.
According to Farrago, one thing that attracts candidates is long-hours positions, where candidates may stay with one client for their entire shift. “Across the industry, many HHAs are required to visit two to four clients per day and must travel between clients on their own time and at their own expense. And with these short cases, you don’t get the feeling of making a difference,” says Farrago.
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