OLYMPIA, Wash. - People entering the booming field of home-based health care will now need at least twice as much training as used to be required in Washington, and must take a certification exam. The law officially changes on Sat., Jan. 7.
It is the result of two ballot measures (Initiatives 1029 and 1163) approved in recent years by voters. After the first vote, the Legislature said the state didn't have the money to implement it - but a second ballot confirmed that people want Home Care Aides to have more professional expertise as they assist Washington's elderly residents and people with disabilities.
Charissa Raynor, executive director of the SEIU Healthcare Northwest Training Partnership, explains what the new standards will mean.
"It's going to place the entry-level training standards for home care workers on par with the federal training standards for Certified Nursing Assistants, workers who are in nursing homes - which will allow these workers to get more depth, get more hands-on training."
Those who opposed the additional training have said it will raise the cost of home-based care, which sometimes includes chores and errands that aren't health-related. However, many clients require home care because of complex medical conditions that until now, Raynor says, their aides haven't had the training to deal with.
Although Home Care Aides are unionized in Washington, many make $10 an hour and have few benefits. It's been a problem attracting new workers to a demanding field. Raynor says the goal of the new training standards is not only better patient care - but jobs that will keep workers interested in health careers.
"We see today's home care workers following a pathway to become medical assistants and then eventually, nurses, to help stabilize the healthcare workforce across the board."
She says some workers will pay for the training on their own. For others, employers will negotiate training costs as part of collective bargaining. The standards apply only to Home Care Aides who are newly hired starting Jan. 7 or after. Raynor says people already working in the field should check with SEIU or their employers about updating their skills.