The Difference Between a Home Health Aide and a Certified Nursing Assistant

Are you looking for a new career? If you’re interested in helping others in the healthcare field, you’ve probably considered the possibility of becoming a nurse. However, obtaining a full Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) certification can be a long and expensive process. If you want to get started quickly, you can choose instead to become a Home Health Aide or a Certified Nursing Assistant. You still get to perform many of the duties of a nurse and help people in need, but without the time and cost involved in becoming an RN or LPN.

There are a few differences between a Home Health Aide and a Certified Nursing Assistant you should be aware of before you embark on your new career. Here is what you need to know about the two careers, what makes them different, and which may be right for you.

What is a Home Health Aide?

A Home Health Aide, also known as an HHA, normally works in the home of a patient or in their apartment at a retirement community. The patient may be chronically ill, elderly and in need of supervision, or they may be an otherwise healthy individual recovering from an illness or surgery. An HHA is usually in charge of tracking the patient’s progress so the nurse or physician in charge can be alerted of any sudden changes. He or she is normally responsible for basic healthcare tasks that can include checking pulse and temperature, helping with medications, changing dressing, or helping patients use wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids. Depending on the level of training the HHA has, he or she may also be able to assist with medical devices such as ventilators or IVs.

Home Health Aides act as both companions and caregivers at a time when patients are at their most vulnerable. Their job is to help the patient they are caring for remain at home where they are most comfortable. This often involves helping them with tasks of everyday living that may not be medical in nature. It is not uncommon for an HHA to assist with duties like teeth brushing, bathing, and providing simple friendship. They can also run errands, help with laundry, transport patients to medical appointments, or prepare meals. HHAs often develop deep and fulfilling relationships with their patients and the patients’ families.

A Home Health Aide normally only works with one patient at a time, though they may have multiple patients they see in any given day or week. They may spend a few hours a time at each patient’s home, or they may stay for longer periods of time—especially if they are working with a patient who is ill or is in the beginning stages of recovery from a surgery or other medical incident.

What is a Certified Nursing Assistant?

A Certified Nursing Assistant, also known as a Nursing Assistant or Practice Care Assistant, acts as a liaison between the patient and the Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) they work with. CNAs work in a wide variety of environments that can include assisted living centers, nursing homes, patient homes, and hospitals. They perform many of the same duties as the HHA, including assisting with medical devices, helping with medications, bathing and dressing patients, checking vital signs, and reporting any changes in condition to the nurse in charge. They may also work with patients who have dementia, who need respite care, or who are in hospice care. CNAs, unlike HHAs, usually care for a group of people instead of individuals.

What Training is Required?

Though the the roles of HHAs and CNAs are quite similar, they do require different amounts of formal training. A CNA must go through a formal training program and pass a state exam, while HHAs are not even required to have a high school diploma and, in some cases, those with no experience or formal training can be trained on the job by RNs or LPNs. 

Which is the Right Career for You?

Now that you know the differences between HHAs and CNAs, you can make a better decision regarding which career choice is right for you. If you want to immediately get into the healthcare field and do not want to invest the time or money into formal education, you should go the HHA route. You can begin work almost immediately and even receive valuable on-the-job training from your employer in certain situations.

If you do have the time and money for formal training, it’s important to note that there are usually more opportunities for CNAs and they make more money than HHAs. If you are a CNA, you can also consider working as a CNA during the day and supplementing your income by working as an HHA in the evenings or on weekends.

When looking for employment as an HHA or CNA, it’s important to choose an organization that offers flexible scheduling, competitive pay and benefits, and has a supportive environment that challenges you and helps you reach your career goals.

Your Career at MediQuest

Larger organizations such as MediQuest Staffing offer a wide range of environments to work in so you can find the right fit for your personality, skills, and schedule. The team at MediQuest Staffing works hard to choose an environment and create a schedule that works for each of their team members and that utilizes their unique skills and personality. They have a reputation in Pennsylvania for being professional, caring, and reliable.

Do you want to help care for those who are experiencing illness, recovering from an injury, or who need assistance as they navigate the aging process? When you work with a homecare company or staffing agency such as MediQuest Staffing, you can find the perfect fit that allows you to take your career to new levels while helping those who need you the most.

MediQuest is actively hiring CNAs, LPNs and RNs

If you are a CNA, LPN or RN who is passionate about helping others and are looking for a great place to work, please review our open positions.  We look forward to meeting you.