What's the Difference Between Home Health Aides and Certified Nursing Assistants?

healthcare worker wrapping blanket around elder

There's an important distinction between home health aides and certified nursing assistants. In this article, we will break down the differences between the two roles.

What Are Home Health Aides (HHA)?

A Home Health Aide (HHA) is an individual who assists in a patient's home or their apartment in a retirement community. Their role is to act as caregivers and companions, ensuring that they are as comfortable as possible while receiving care at home. A home health aid is an integral part of the patient's care team. The HHA will monitor their progress and alert nurses or doctors about any changes that could signify something serious happening to take immediate action accordingly.

They are usually responsible for basic healthcare tasks that can include:

  • Checking pulse and temperature
  • Helping with medications
  • Changing dressings
  • Assisting patients to use wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
 

Depending on their level of training, the HHA may also be in charge of assisting with medical devices such as ventilators or IVs.

Because of the connection and long hours HHAs have with their patients, they typically only take on one at a time, though they may have multiple patients they see within a week.

Are Home Care Aides the Same?

services that home care aides provide

Home care aides, also called personal care aides or companion/caregivers, provide support through performing various tasks and services to help the patient feel comfortable within their home. These services typically vary by state and are not covered through regular insurance policies. Though if you have a long-term care insurance policy, they may be covered. Their services typically include:

What Are Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA)?

The Certified Nursing Assistant, also known as a Nursing Assistant or Practice Care Assistant, is a vital member of the healthcare team. They work tirelessly to ensure each patient has access to help and maintains dignity throughout their stay at assisted living centers, nursing homes, patient homes, or hospitals. They are viewed as an extension of nursing staff, helping in diverse roles such as bathing patients or reminding them about follow-up appointments with physicians when needed.

CNAs, unlike HHAs, can care for groups of people. They must know how to assess a patient and perform many duties that the HHA does like:

  • Helping with medications
  • Changing dressings
  • Assisting patients to use wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • Checking vital signs
 

Like HHAs, they monitor and report any changes in the patient's health to their nurse or practitioner. CNAs can work with those living with dementia, those who need respite care, or those in hospice care.

Comparing an HHA Vs a CNA

In this section, we'll take a look at the significant differentiation between an HHA and CNA.

comparing hha vs cna

Education Requirements

Both positions require educational training programs; however, the curriculum differs due to varying state regulations. Training for both CNA and HHA professionals primarily focuses on nursing techniques, including caring for a patient's daily quality-of-life needs.

Home Health Aides must be able to assist with basic nursing tasks and administer any necessary medications. Certified Nursing Assistants are specifically trained to know their basic nursing skills.

To become a nursing assistant, you can complete your education through:

  • Vocational schools
  • Community colleges
  • Traditional colleges
  • University
  • Online training programs
 

While HHAs can often find courses in similar institutions, some states do not require school-based training. These states put any necessary education on the employer. If you want to know the education needed for HHAs in your area, check your state's Board of Nursing to determine the mandatory requirements to become an HHA.

Duties & Responsibilities

HHA's do not perform clinical tasks. They help the patient with activities of daily living such as:

  • Light housekeeping and laundry
  • Changing bedding
  • Meal preparation
  • Transportation
  • Companionship
  • Grocery shopping and errands
  • Understanding and complying with treatment and medication plans
 

CNA's role is to support their patient's health. As part of the healthcare team, a Certified Nursing Assistant's responsibility can include:

  • Maintaining a patient's hygiene
  • Managing medication
  • Changing dressings and bandages
  • Tracking patient conditions
  • Documenting patient care
  • Reporting to supervising nurse

Typical Work Environment

A significant difference between CNAs and HHAs is work environments. HNAs will work from the patient's home or apartment in a long-term care facility, allowing them to help around their dwelling.

CNAs work within hospitals and medical care facilities and tend more to their medical needs.

Career Opportunities

While some prefer to be CNAs or HHAs for life, both offer unique career opportunities and have room for growth. It ultimately depends on what additional training they are willing to take and your place of employment.

For example, CNAs can complete courses to become a Registered Nurse, a Licensed Practical Nurse or even a CNA Instructor.

An HHA can grow their career by attending additional HHA professional programs.

Average Salary

According to Indeed Salaries, the average salary for a certified nursing assistant in the United States is $35,267 per year. The average salary for a home health aide in the United States is $29,460 per year.

Which Should You Hire for Your Needs?

Deciding between a CNA or an HHA comes down to how much medical attention is needed. If you or a loved one requires non-medical home care, an HHA may be right for you.

We suggest contacting a reputable home care agency with CNAs and HHAs to thoroughly determine how much care is needed to ensure you are implementing quality home care for your loved one.