Interactive Curriculum Prepares Home Health Aides for Challenges on the Job

2015 Winter Newsletter, Initiative Updates

High demand and low retention have long been challenges for the home care industry.  Annual turnover for home health aides (HHAs) is at least 25-50% in New York City[1], and often aides don’t make it past the first couple months.  Home care patients and their families confront complex medical conditions and major life obstacles, and home health aides can feel isolated in the homes of patients, too often facing these challenges with insufficient training and support.  With the retirement of baby boomers and larger delivery system shifts towards “aging in place”, the number of home health aide jobs in New York City is projected to grow 48% from 2010 to 2020, with close to 5,000 openings per year.

As an industry partnership for the healthcare sector, bringing together major players in the healthcare and workforce development systems to launch collaborative training initiatives for in-demand jobs, NYACH and the NYC Department of Small Business Services launched the CUNY Home Health Aide Training and Employment Program last year. The initiative brings together NYACH’s partners the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), CUNY, three home care employers, and NYC Workforce1 Career Centers.  During the pilot year, 150 students received training through a series of cohorts at Lehman College and Queensborough Community College.  In 2015, an additional 240 individuals will be trained at Lehman, Queensborough, and the New York City College of Technology.  Retention for graduates of the pilot year of the program was 80% at 3-6 months, considered high for the industry.

The program model relies on an intensive recruitment and screening process through Workforce1 in order to select people that are truly interested in and prepared for home care work.  Employer partners interview, select, and commit to hire training participants, ensuring a smooth transition into work for graduates.  The curriculum, developed in partnership with PHI, is 120 hours as compared to the 75 hours required by New York State, features a hands-on teaching approach that builds on participants’ experiences, incorporates role-playing, and utilizes experienced HHAs as teaching assistants.  PHI trains CUNY instructors on delivering the curriculum in an adult-learner centered manner, and provides coaching for teaching teams over a period of several months, enhancing the capacity of the colleges to offer this type of training in the future.

Jeanne O’Donnell, from Progressive Home Care, one of the three employer partners, comments on the enhanced curriculum.

“What we loved about this training model was that the creators both followed the state training guidelines and incorporated additional features such as job readiness and role-play.  These pieces are extremely important as the students get to experience some of the most challenging issues in home care hands-on, preparing them for situations they may encounter on the job.”- Jeanne O’Donnell, Progressive Home Care

Participants loved the participatory nature of the learning as well.  92% completed the training and got certified and 95% said they would recommend this training to a friend or family member.

Training expansion in Year 2

This year, the CUNY HHA Training and Employment Initiative will be joined by another initiative in partnership with SBS, the Quality Home Care Workforce Pilot Program. Conducted over two phases, NYACH’s partners will work directly with home care employers to enhance the training for new HHAs (Phase I) and raise the quality of HHA jobs more broadly through supervisory training, improved scheduling practices, and financial literacy services (Phase II).  The application to participate in Phase 1 of the Pilot Program has been released. More information is available here.

[1] Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, “Medicaid Redesign Watch #1: Wage Parity for Home Care Aides,” February 2014.

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