What is the Difference Between HHA and CNA?

If you are looking to work in the healthcare field, and especially with the elderly, you may have considered becoming a certified nursing assistant. But there are a number of healthcare job descriptions in the elder care industry, and it may be difficult to see the major differences.

To be specific, the majority of differences come from certifications. No states, as yet, have a certification program for home health aides or HHAs.  Although,  home health aides may do many of the same activities with American senior citizens as certified nursing assistants. The starting salary is lower as a result, because the training is done by the company itself. This can cause problems for career mobility, as different companies may offer different training programs.

By contrast, certified nursing assistants must take a state examination to prove that they have mastered the skills needed to assist elderly Americans with clinical needs such as medication management or other health needs such as diabetes assistance or help with catheters. The amount of training may be double that of the in-house curriculum for a home health aide, and the exam includes both written and practical components, including how to examine vital signs.

The final difference is often salaries offered. Since certified nursing assistants can work in medical facilities and hospitals as well as providing home healthcare services, they can make thousands more per year than home health aides. They also have the flexibility of taking on part-time work as an HHA, due to their more advanced training.

Choosing to become a certified nursing assistant is much like choosing to become a BSN rather than a registered nurse which takes less time. More doors are open, you can provide more care for your patients, and the upper end of salaries are higher. More importantly, you can work in more than one specialization of medicine, and as the need for qualified elder care specialists grow, job prospects will remain strong.

Keep in mind, too, that the advanced training will also improve working conditions, as certified nursing assistants may, also, supervise less well-trained workers at assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Though you may spend several months to more than a year on training, the upshot is the ability to stay on the leading edge of healthcare without advanced degrees or specializations.

Moving from Home Health Aide (HHA) to CNA

If you have been employed as a home health aide, it may be a shock to your ‘system’ if you choose to work in a facility instead of private residences. Sometimes the pay is better in a facility and other times there may just not be enough work coming in from your home health agency. Whatever your reasons, there is a big difference between home health and facility work.

For instance, a facility has up to 20 people per hallway while a private home typically has only one person. Facilities have all of the items needed for care – briefs, heavy transfer machines, soaps, large showers, and more – while private homes only have a small amount of these things. Some homes may have showers that are modified, but most will have a regular shower.

Home health aides also usually do different jobs as compared to facility nurse aides. They are trained to help people on a more personal level in their home, walking through their home, navigating smaller toilets, and performing some domestic duties. Aides that work in facilities are trained to care for people on a larger scale and without the domestic duties.

Certified nurse assistants can usually transfer their certification to home health aide (HHA) with little extra training. However, HHAs that have been trained by their home health agency may never have received full nurse aide training. Some states allow people to become HHAs without CNA training as they are not required to do all of the intense work of a CNA.

HHAs that were never certified nurse aides will need to take CNA training in order to receive their certification. They must go to school or apply to work at a nursing home that offers this type of training, much like anyone else that wishes to become a certified nursing assistant.

HHAs that were previously certified nurse aides can usually just take up work as a CNA again. If the state they are working in does not allow dual certification, then they will need to check with the nursing board in their home state for requirements to change their certification back to that of a CNA. This may mean paying a fee, taking the test again, or if the certification has expired, re-taking the whole certified nurse assistant training course.