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Home Health Aide Training Institute CEO Maria Santiago Reveals 3 Questions to Ask Before Becoming an Aide

There are so many facets of home health care that attract women to the field. Many believe that their natural propensity for compassion and caring is enough to carry them through, but they may not consider the emotional aspects of the job, the kindness needed toward both themselves and their patients, and that they must accomplish every task with heart.

“A natural ability to show empathy will get you far in this industry, and that’s harder to teach than how to take blood pressure, bathe a patient, and assist with medication,” said Maria Santiago, CEO and Director of Home Health Aide Training Institute (HHATI).

And the healthcare expert should know. She has worked in the field for 25 years and opened her own institute six years ago.  In that short time, she graduated 3,000 aides and received The Presidential Tribute of Excellence Award for a lifetime of community caring.

The prestigious award was given by U.S. President Joe Biden, who thanked her for her pride and joy in helping others and the high quality of her instruction.

Below, she shares the three questions that every aspiring home health aide must honestly answer before entering the demanding — but highly rewarding — field.

Are You Kind?

When Santiago poses this question, she means it in one way you might not expect. She’s talking about being kind to yourself.

“Are you kind enough with yourself?” she asked. While it may seem like a strange question, she clarifies up any confusion about what she means. “If you are not kind to yourself, you can’t be kind to others.”

Kindness is something that she has built her institute’s curriculum around. Empathy and compassion are built into each lesson, and students learn to administer the same way they would an IV or an ibuprofen tablet.

She knows how hard the work is and how easy women find it to care for everyone else and reserve little kindness or care for themselves. It’s a pitfall of the industry and one that home health aides must consciously work to avoid.

She cites long hours and bearing daily witness to illness and tragedy as reasons that aides need to be sure that they are kindly caring for themselves, both physically and emotionally.

“Sometimes client aides are great, but after a while, they get burnt out, and neglect to care for themselves. And they pass that empty vessel to the clients they’re caring for,” explained Santiago.

Do You Lead With Your Heart?

It’s important to put heart into everything you do, especially caring for the ill, sick, and disabled. So, Santiago insists aspiring aides must ask themselves, ‘Do you put your heart into everything you work on?’

If the answer is yes, you may have found the career of your dreams. “Heart is so important in this business.  I train my students to ensure that their patient is properly cared for in all physical and emotional aspects,” she said.

At HHATI, the aim is always to graduate students that have the heart to help people through their darkest hours with grace.

“The reason why I wanted to have an institute is to share an understanding of how to care. I feel that students come to our school with heart, but I teach them how to care for people. Going into this profession with your heart is important,” said Santiago.

Do You Know How Much You Will Earn?

While compensation for New York State home healthcare workers has just been increased by $2 per hour thanks to the passing of the Fair Pay for Home Care bill, Santiago says it’s not enough. She performs ongoing advocacy work in the community to get wages for her students, graduates, and every aide increased.

“I know these aides, these women. I see how hard they work and how much they go above and beyond the job requirements. The $2 increase is a start, but it absolutely has to go higher. In this economy, that’s basically a cost of living increase, unfortunately,” said the fair pay advocate.

By her estimation, truly fair pay would be higher and should increase to up to $22.50 per hour. It’s a cause she feels strongly about and a battle that she will continue to fight on behalf of her past and present students.

With a heart-led executive like Santiago to guide you, you’re sure to make the right decision about whether or not the home health aide field is for you.

About Maria Santiago

Maria Santiago is the CEO and Director of Home Health Aide Training Institute (HHATI), which trains nurses in board-certified home health aide. She recently won the Presidential Tribute of Excellence Award and her team has taught over 4,000 students to date. For more information about getting involved in home healthcare, please visit www.hhati.com