Multiple job opportunities — and diverse career trajectories — are available for both certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and home health aides (HHAs). Though both types of professionals directly deal with the patients and may have similar duties from time to time, there are some key differences to be aware of between both the titles and their respective specificities.
An HHA provides basic healthcare services, traditionally in the home of the patient receiving care. In contrast, a CNA offers in-depth medical assistance and also has the credentials to perform various limited medical procedures. Both HHAs and CNAs perform duties such as changing beds and bedpans, taking care of everyday food intake/diet, and helping with everyday activities like walking, changing/dressing, bathing, using the restroom, etc.
An HHA, in addition to basic medical assistance, may help patients by going to the grocery store, picking up medications, and even things like doing the laundry — all things that a CNA would not be expected to do. HHAs essentially have very unique, varying situations because their roles depend entirely on the person they are providing care for, while a CNA’s role is defined by a clinical organization and supervisor (a physician or nurse). HHAs performed in less standardized capacities due to their limited medical training and requirements.
By and large, a CNA is suited to work in a variety of work environments, while an HHA generally works in the patient’s home and, in some cases, at long-term care facilities. CNAs can work in hospitals, nursing homes, residential care facilities, assisted living centers, rehabilitation centers, long-term care facilities, and clinics. The work dynamic is largely the same between the two types of health aide, but the physical environment differs.
A CNA program can be completed in 6 to 12 weeks. Although CNA requirements vary by state, you can generally complete your program at a college/university, or at a medical facility such as a nursing home directly. CNA classes generally cover things such as basic nursing (bedside care, standardized care techniques, etc.), anatomy and physiology, nutrition, and infection control. CNA programs usually consist of class-room-based and clinical-based instruction.
While there are some HHA education programs, there are no formal educational requirements to become an HHA. Generally, HHA education programs will consist of 75 hours of training, and they cover things such as general bedside care, human development, body systems, common disorders, and instruction on caring for clients that require specialized treatment. They are generally offered at the local level, or online by some colleges.
There are various options for finding CNA training since requirements, cost, scholarships, and programs can vary by state. HHA programs can be found online or offered in-person by various local care companies. There are many advantages to accredited CNA programs and accredited HHA programs. If you choose to go with a program that is not accredited, make sure to look at reviews of the programs and schools to be sure you will be receiving the necessary resources and training.
CNA certification is taken care of at the state level. The program curriculum for a nurse aide also includes certain aspects of an HHA program. For an HHA, certification is not mandatory in any of the U.S. states. However, you can get certified nationally through a MACE certification program to get better payment and to stand out against other job applicants.
In order to maintain your CNA license, most states — or workplaces — require license holders to participate in 48 hours of continuing education over the span of two years. There are no HHA continuing education requirements.
If you currently have a CNA license in another state, the CNA license transfer process ultimately depends on what kind of reciprocity agreements are made between the state you hold your license in and the state you wish to transfer to.
There are 20 jurisdictions that utilize the NNAAP exam to determine the competency of CNA license applicants. These include:
The rest of the states and jurisdictions use a state-level examination that varies from state to state, as well as the CNA skills that are tested. You can find free practice tests and other study guides online.
Individuals pursuing careers in HHA can take the MACE exam to prove competency, and to provide peace of mind for the family members of the patients, as well as the patient receiving care. It is not required, but again, it can help increase wages as well as helping you stand out on paper.
There are just as many reasons for choosing a CNA career as there are to choose an HHA career. While some choose to be CNAs or HHAs for life, both offer unique career ladders. Career growth ultimately depends on what additional training you are willing to undertake, and where you work. A CNA can do career development courses to increase their profile as a Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse or a CNA Instructor. An HHA can experience career growth by attending HHA professional program programs.
Like many other aspects, HHA and CNA salaries vary by location, the amount of education you’ve obtained, and the amount of experience you have. Since nursing assistants hold a higher certification and shoulder more responsibilities, their salary is generally higher. The average HHA salary comes out to a median of $24,200 annually, which breaks down to roughly $11.63 an hour at 40 hours a week. The average CNA salary has a median hourly wage of $15, which at 40 hours a week comes out to $31,200 annually.
Which nursing profession you choose to embark on will depend entirely on personal preference and career goals. Use the information above as a guiding resource, but the better option will ultimately whatever works best for you.