How to Become a Caregiver in Washington State
Being a caregiver is a noble and challenging profession that requires a lot of knowledge and skill. If you are a compassionate person who cares about helping others, this might be the right career path for you.
However, to become a caregiver, and get your HCA licensing, there are certain requirements that you have to meet. Here is a step-by-step guide to becoming a caregiver in Washington State.
Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Background Checks and Requirements
Before you can start on your journey to becoming a paid caregiver, complete your core basic training and work as a certified home care aide or an LTC worker, there are certain requirements that you need to meet.
According to the Washington state Department of Social and Health Services, for a person to become an individual provider, or an in-home caregiver, they must first authorize a fingerprint background check.
The same goes for anyone looking to work at adult family homes, assisted living facilities, home care agencies, and nursing homes. This check will establish that you have no prior criminal convictions. This information is submitted with the HCA application.
Apply for your HCA license
All potential caregivers are required to submit an application to the Department of Health within two weeks of starting work, or at the beginning of the training process. This application asks for demographic information, personal identification details, any previous out-of-state training, background check information, and other details. You must be allowed to work in the US to be eligible for this work.
The application should be sent with the $85 application fee and the $137 fee for the licensing exam. It’s okay to wait until after the training is complete to pay for the testing fee, but the application fee must be paid when submitted. If you choose to apply online instead of sending it in the mail, there’s an extra $2.50 convenience fee, payable online.
There is a section of this paperwork that provides the ability to apply for an extended training deadline for people who are not native English speakers. You may also request to take the state licensing exam in your native language and have a translator present. This is the only time you can make this request, so it’s very important to read and fill out the application carefully.
After the Department of Health receives your application, they send a confirmation email to the address listed and will contact you the same way if there is any missing information. It is very important to keep an eye on the email inbox during this whole process for critical updates.
Once the application is processed, you will be issued a pending HCA credential number, which will be your official HCA license number at the end. It is critical to submit this information as soon as possible instead of waiting until you have completed training. The Department of Health will take at least 2 weeks to process applications, and if there is any missing information it could take a month or two before they have what they need to get your state exam scheduled.
After your application has been submitted, it’s time to get into the training process!
Complete Your Training
All new caregivers need to complete mandatory training in order to satisfy the initial and continuing education requirements. The training consists of several components.
In all, every long-term care worker and home care aide needs to complete 75 hours of training.
Depending on the training center, this whole program can be completed either online or in person. With Cornerstone Healthcare Training, you can do the entire program online. This allows you to manage your time, complete the training at your own pace, and get the necessary certification to be able to work as a caregiver in Washington State.
Orientation training is a two-hour training program. This course contains basic information about working as a caregiver and about the care services setting.
This part of the training lasts three hours. It is part of the 75 hours, and is meant to educate future LTC workers on safety practices. It is common to see Orientation and Safety training combined into one 5-hour class.
Core Basic Training
Core Basic training comprises the bulk of the 75 hours. Most Core Basic programs are approved for 54 or 58 hours total. In this portion of the training, you will learn the basic knowledge and skills that are at the core of working as a caregiver.
This includes common scenarios that you may encounter in your daily work as a caregiver, information about health conditions and limitations your clients may have, and many other topics related to this work. It also includes 16 hours of hands-on skills practice.
As a caregiver, there are many daily tasks that you will need to do for and with your clients for their safety, health, and comfort. The skills lab is where these skills are taught and practiced. There are a total of 16 skills that could be tested for the HCA certification exam. In this class, you will see how the skill should be performed, get a list of supplies and steps, then get to practice on your own until you are able to perform them all correctly.
The Cornerstone skills training is unique. All skills can be completed online, at your own pace. We have video demonstrations that show all of the steps in detail and written, printable resources with the steps to follow.
We also send a small package to your mailing address that contains some supplies for skills that may not be available around the house, so you are equipped with what you need to succeed.
After you have watched a demonstration video, you record a video of yourself performing the skill following the steps outlined and submit for review. Our grading team reviews these and leave detailed feedback about every video submitted, so you get one-on-one guidance from one of our experts while still being able to work at your own pace from anywhere.
Population Specific Training
This portion of the training will teach you how to work with different groups of clients. These groups might have a particular health issue or condition. In these classes, you will learn skills that have a special focus on their unique needs.
This section must include at least 12 hours in total. There are several elective courses that you can choose from to make up for this requirement.
For people who work in adult family homes or assisted living facilities, there are specialty training courses for people with dementia and mental health conditions that are required for these settings.
For caregivers in other environments, there are other options available, including courses about traumatic brain injury, diabetes, or nurse delegation training.
Nurse Delegation Training
Nurse delegation training is designed so that caregivers can learn how to be trained to do certain types of care tasks in place of a nurse.
This training is not required for every caregiver. It is necessary if the home care aide will be doing these types of tasks during care. Some examples of these tasks include administering medications and ointments, checking glucose levels, and administering insulin.
There are two courses that cover this - Nurse Delegation Core and Nurse Delegation Focus on Diabetes. With Cornerstone, both of these classes are also available on-demand, at your own pace.
Skills Exam and Certification
After you have completed your training program, you need to pass the HCA certification exam to get your HCA license. This exam is in two parts - written and practical. The written portion is completed on a computer at the testing center.
The practical portion is a hands-on section to test on the skills. HCA candidates will pair up with another test-taker and perform the skills that are requested in front of an evaluator, who will watch and determine your score.
Training and Certification Deadlines
If you have already been hired to work as a home care aide, you have a deadline of 120 days to complete your training. Within 200 days of hire, you must become a certified home care aide.
This deadline can be extended by 60 days for LTC workers who have limited language proficiency. In order to get the extension, you must first apply for a provisional certificate, which is done on the initial HCA application, as described above.
Who Are LTC Workers?
Long-term care, or LTC, workers are all caregivers providing care services. They can be individual providers who provide personal care services to clients of the Department of Health Services, or they can be caregivers who work in-home care agencies, adult family homes, nursing homes or other home care institutions.
Renewing Your License
After you have completed all the training, passed the state exam and have an active HCA license number, there is additional training required to keep the license active after the first year.
Each year, every caregiver needs to complete at least 12 hours of Continuing Education and pay the renewal fee. Fortunately, the Department of Health sends reminder information about this before it is due as a reminder.
How to Find a Caregiver Job
A lot of prospective caregivers look for a job first, so that they can be paid while they complete their training program and obtain their license.
In order to find work at a home care agency, an adult family home, or a nursing home, you can look up the websites of homes and agencies in Washington State. Many of these businesses are willing to pay for their employees' training so that they can get the necessary license to become an LTC worker.
Alternatively, you can check the Home Care Referral Registry which connects caregivers with Medicaid users.
Becoming a certified caregiver in Washington has many steps to the process. Hopefully, this article has helped clarify some of these steps and can be a good resource to help you stay on track and understand what to do through the process of becoming a licensed home care aide.