How to Hire a Home Health Aide

The U.S. population is getting older, with one in every five residents reaching retirement age by 2030. While this demographic shift affects all facets of healthcare, it particularly impacts home health care. With more people living longer than ever before, the need for home health aides—individuals who visit patients in their homes, monitoring their conditions and assisting with activities of daily living—is growing.

But despite many individuals’ attraction to the profession due to its fairly low barriers to entry, turnover within this workforce remains a problem. According to Home Health Care News, the latest Home Care Benchmarking Study shows that the median caregiver turnover rate dropped to 64.3% in 2019, after spiking to 82% in 2018. For home health administrators, these metrics highlight the importance of hiring employees who are deeply committed to their work and the patients they serve.

But sourcing great home health aides requires more than simply obtaining applications. Home health administrators must strive to create a welcoming, healthy workplace environment that differentiates them from the competition. Armed with a strong understanding of the current home health landscape and creative ways to recruit and retain home health aides, employers set themselves up for long-term success.

The Current Home Health Landscape

As America’s aging population rises, so does the desire to age in place. According to the 2020 Aging in Place in America report, approximately 82% of the G.I. generation (or greatest generation) and 78% of baby boomers say aging in place is a goal of theirs, further compounding the demand for qualified home health professionals.

To meet this demand, the home health industry is growing—fast. Currently, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures show that 3.4 million employees work as home health aides and personal care aides. Of those, PHI estimates that 2.4 million work in private homes.

BLS predicts that home health and personal care aides will be the sixth highest-growth occupation group between 2019 and 2029, adding 1.16 million jobs. According to the bureau, these professions are expected to grow an astounding 33.7% during this time—significantly higher than the national average growth rate for all occupations. But that’s not all.

Projections made by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) show home health care expenditures rising from $108.9 billion in 2019 to $201.3 billion in 2028, further underscoring how the industry is expanding to keep pace with current trends and demographic shifts.

What To Look for in a Home Health Aide

Before administrators can begin considering how to recruit home health aides, they must first identify the exact qualities and qualifications to look for in a candidate, including:

  • Communication Skills: The bulk of a home health aide’s job rests on proper communication with patients and their loved ones. Home health aides must be able to communicate daily routines, changes in a patient’s conditions, and adjustments made to care plans in a way that is effective and compassionate.
  • Empathy: The relationship between a patient and their caregiver is very important. There’s no denying that caregiving can be challenging, but empathy for a patient allows home health professionals to develop more meaningful, trusting relationships with their patients and assist them to the best of their ability.
  • Patience: While patience is critical for any healthcare professional, it is particularly important for home health aides. These professionals often deal with a unique mix of on-the-job challenges, including assisting patients with cognitive disorders, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, and attending to those who are upset by the presence of an outsider in their home. Home health aides must remain calm and focused in the face of these challenges and more, providing their patients with the quality support they need.
  • High Physical Functioning: In addition to the basic medical duties they perform, home health aides also assist patients with basic elements of daily living, including using the bathroom, bathing, and dressing. Home health aides need to have the physical strength to perform these tasks with ease.
  • Expertise and Credentials: Administrators must ensure that a candidate has obtained the home health certifications required by their state. Strong candidates will have additional training or expertise beyond the minimum requirements.
  • Experience: First-hand experience within a caregiving and/or medical setting is often the best indicator of a candidate’s ability to manage the challenges and decisions they may face as a home health aide.

How Do I Hire a Home Health Worker?

Many hiring managers wonder how to hire a home health aide when demand is so high. But before these leaders can begin the hiring process, they must take a step back and identify what worked—and didn’t—during previous hiring periods. With this information in hand, they can follow these four steps to ensure only strong, qualified candidates are considered and selected:

Step 1: Identifying the Ideal Candidate

Identifying the ideal candidate requires administrators to consider the specific skills, knowledge, and behavioral attributes a candidate will need to succeed within their agency. To help facilitate this process, administrators are encouraged to reflect on the attributes of those home health aides that have flourished within their organization and those who have not.

Some find it helpful to take this one step further and rank these qualities in terms of importance, listing those that are:

  • Must-Have: Must-have candidate qualities are typically those pertaining to the specific certifications, degrees, and experience home health aides are required to have by law before they can work with patients.
  • Nice-to-Have: These are the abilities that a home health care administrator prefers a candidate to have, but that aren’t absolutely necessary. Administrators may decide to rank their nice-to-have qualities, listing empathy above communication skills or vice versa, depending on their organization and the patients they serve.
  • Deal-Breaker: Candidates who possess a “deal-breaker” trait are immediately excluded from consideration. Each administrator will define deal breakers a little differently, but common examples of a deal-breaking quality include tardiness, inflexibility, and defensiveness.

Step 2: Attracting the Best Talent

As demand for home health aides increases, it’s up to each home health agency to do their part to entice top talent away from the competition. While raising wages is one of the more obvious ways to attract applicants, it isn’t an option for many organizations.

Fortunately, high pay isn’t the only benefit employees have their eyes on. According to research conducted by Glassdoor, health insurance, paid sick days, and a 401K plan all top the list of most desired workplace perks.

A healthy work-life balance also is important to employees. Home health agencies have a unique advantage over other health care organizations when it comes to providing work-life balance. Many allow their employees to work either full or part time, providing them with more flexibility when it comes to balancing professional and personal obligations.

Once workplace benefits have been identified, strategic advertising—both in terms of what is included in a job posting and where it is posted—is key. Employers should ensure that their job descriptions are as specific as possible, clearly outlining the responsibilities associated with the position, required qualifications and skills, salary range, etc. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to minimize jargon as much as possible and avoid assuming candidates are familiar with every acronym the organization uses.

A clear, informative job post can be placed in a variety of locations to attract top-quality candidates. Credible recruiting sites, social media, and the hiring organization’s website are all great places to start. Overall, administrators should look at where their competitors are posting and aim to do the same.

Personal recommendations also play a huge role in hiring within the home health field. In fact, PHI found that one sample agency had a hiring rate of 44% for candidates who received personal referrals compared with 3% for those recruited online.

Step 3: Interview Home Health Aides

Home health administrators often ask, “How do I interview a home health aide?” Successfully interviewing a home health aide requires an all-encompassing approach, one that addresses every stage of the interview process.

Administrators’ relationship with a potential employee begins before the interview even occurs. The first interaction—whether it’s an email, phone call, or handshake—sets the tone for the rest of the hiring process and beyond. Administrators, just like candidates, must strive to represent themselves (and their companies) in the best light possible. Presenting candidates with information that sparks their interest in the organization and demonstrates a healthy, happy workplace culture is a must in today’s competitive home health hiring landscape.

When it comes to the actual interview, administrators must assess a candidate’s hard and soft skills. The best way to do so is with a formal evaluation. While conducting this type of assessment often comes at an additional cost, it helps minimize the chances of hiring someone who is a poor fit and could contribute to high turnover within the organization.

During both a formal and informal evaluation, administrators must seek to identify a candidate’s ability to:

  • Work well with different personalities
  • Communicate professionally
  • Make sound decisions independently when appropriate
  • Navigate ethical dilemmas encountered in the workplace
  • Function as an advocate for their patients
  • Present a desire to continuously learn and improve

There are many questions an administrator can ask to determine a candidate’s alignment with these qualities. For example, if they’re trying to determine a home health aide’s ability to communicate professionally, they might ask, “Tell me about a time when you were on a team that was challenged to improve. How did you motivate your colleagues? What was the outcome?” If a job requires excellent decision-making skills, a fair question would be, “Can you describe a time when you had to act quickly on your feet?”

Administrators will also want to get a sense of a candidate’s ability to perform the job from a practical standpoint. Sensitivity is a must here—asking the wrong questions can open an organization up to discrimination or liability claims. Everyone involved in the interview process must be acutely aware of what constitutes an appropriate interview question. Specific questions to avoid and their alternatives include:

  • Unacceptable: “How many children do you have?”
  • Acceptable: “What days and hours are you able to work?”
  • Unacceptable: “What is your religion? Will you need personal time for particular religious holidays?”
  • Acceptable: “Are there specific times that you cannot work?”
  • Unacceptable: “Do you have any disabilities?”
  • Acceptable: “Can you perform the duties of the job for which you are applying?”

Step 4: Welcoming and Retaining Top Talent

Welcoming and retaining talent begins with devoting sufficient time and energy to onboarding new hires. Creating a personalized onboarding process helps ensure new hires understand company expectations and culture and are well connected with their peers and managers.   Once onboarding is complete, administrators must promote continued job success through regular one-on-ones and team meetings, consistent coaching, focused recognition and praise, and constructive feedback.

Administrators are also encouraged to address their employees’ professional growth through engaging educational opportunities. Educational training and workshops improve an aide’s ability to provide high-quality care and increase employee engagement rates. In fact, 94% of employees in a LinkedIn survey said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. Aides who stay longer can build more meaningful relationships with their patients and have opportunities to move up within the organization.

Educational opportunities can be woven into an organization through:

  • Skill-Based Assessments: Both formal and informal assessments help identify home health aides’ strengths and weaknesses. With this information in hand, administrators are better equipped to help aides address areas of improvement.
  • Competency Training: Competency training is designed to fill any gaps in clinical and procedural knowledge. As the industry evolves and new patient demands emerge, comprehensive training encourages employees to rise to the occasion with quality support.
  • Ongoing Professional Development: Providing home health aides with continuing education opportunities encourages them to hone their skills and add new specializations to their resume.

Hire the Best and Brightest Candidates

As the demand for home health support increases, so does the demand for qualified home health professionals. But finding a home health aide with the skills needed to thrive within your organization can be challenging.

Careful strategizing is the key to hiring success. Relias’ home health hiring guide is packed with all the insights you need to elevate your hiring practices and position your organization for growth. Download the guide and improve your hiring practices today.

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Terrey L. Hatcher

Content Marketing Manager, Relias

Terrey Hatcher is a Content Marketing Manager at Relias. She has worked in professional development and curriculum design organizations for more than 20 years. At Relias, she has collaborated with physicians, nurses, curriculum designers, writers, and other staff members to shape healthcare content designed to improve clinical practice, staff expertise, and patient outcomes. Besides her current focus on healthcare solutions, Terrey’s experience includes sharing best practices in education, IT, and international business.

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