The vast majority of paid caregivers working in a home setting are called “Aides.” Aides provide custodial and non-skilled care for patients. Aides can also provide homemaking assistance, as needed. The official certifications and training curriculums in Florida encompass three titles: “Home Health Aide,” Certified Nursing Assistant,” and “Patient Care Assistant.” Generally speaking, all three are qualified to provide care for patients in a home setting. Aides typically perform patient care independently, with only minor supervision or communication with visiting nurses.
How do the training programs vary for “HHA’s,” “CNA’s,” and “PCA’s?” Training programs are offered by vocational schools and home health agencies. Home Health Aide courses run from a minimum of 40 hours to 75 hours, or more. Certified Nursing Assistant programs are more extensive. These curriculums include and surpass the HHA course, with a minimum of 75 hours, and more typically, several hundred hours, and include clinical training at hospital standards. The Personal Care Assistant courses are the longest of all and supersede both the HHA and CNA programs. There are some notable exceptions in the training requirements allowed by Florida government agencies. For instance, an individual can “challenge” the CNA exam, without prior enrollment for training, and become certified if he or she passes the test. If that is too tough, then the individual can take a Home Health Aide competency test, again without prior training. If he or she passes, then certification is issued.
How do the training differences effect the patient? All three skill levels are qualified to work in a home setting. If the patient desires private duty assistance in a nursing home or hospital, then all three qualify. (However, skilled nursing facilities and hospitals are only allowed to hire CNA’s and PCA’s as staff.) For basic care duties, such as bathing, dressing, and toileting, the HHA is fine. However, if a patient requires more advanced care, such as assistance with swallowing restrictions or care for a colostomy, ileostomy, or catheter care, then a CNA or PCA has more clinical training. In the final analysis, an “Aide’s suitability” for a particular client will be based on his or her combination of training, experience, and personality.
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