Home health aides are not licensed vocational or registered nurses but do assist them in providing patient care to the homebound and those in nursing homes or residential facilities. In the 2010-2011 edition of its Occupational Outlook Handbook, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projected 50 percent employment growth for home health aides between 2008 and 2018, much better than average. The requirements to become a home health aide vary by state. In Massachusetts, home health aides must abide by regulations set by the state Board of Nursing.
Home health aides in Massachusetts are required to pass an approved training program prior to being awarded a certificate. As of 2011, the program must last a minimum of 75 hours. Sixteen of these hours must be supervised clinical training with real patients. A high school diploma is not mandated by either state or federal law, but some home health programs require that students pass a math and reading comprehension test before being admitted. Attendance at an information session or a face-to-face interview is also required of most home health aide programs. The home health program offered by the American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay combines training for both home health and certified nursing assistants, so graduates can seek employment in either occupation.
Massachusetts home health aide training programs bestow certification once a student graduates. The certificate is not granted by the state. Home health aides who desire national certification can apply through the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. To qualify, an aide must complete the 75-hour training course, pass a skills competency test and take a written exam.
A state examination is not required in Massachusetts for home health aide certification. If the home health program offers training in both home health and nursing assistance, a state competency exam is necessary to receive nurse aide certification. In addition, home health aides do not need to be registered with the state unless they also work as certified nursing assistants.
All employers in Massachusetts must check with the state Nurse Aide Registry prior to hiring home health aides. State law prohibits the employment of any home health aide with a record of patient abuse, neglect or mistreatment or who has misappropriated patient property. A Massachusetts CORI (Criminal Offender Records Information) check is required before students can enroll in the American Red Cross home health training program.