The home health aide field requires organization, compassion, the ability to multitask, and a workplace where every day provides new challenges and triumphs.
Maria Santiago, CEO and Director of Home Health Aide Training Institute (HHATI), extolls on the absolute joy of seeing a rehab patient take their first step, a cancer patient reacting well to a new treatment, or a family coming to pick up their recovered loved one.
Because the job requires wearing so many hats, maybe it’s no surprise that it’s dominated by women, who are used to being mothers, carers, professionals, and much more.
“Being a home healthcare aide is not for the faint of heart. We are helping people to get through the most difficult times in their lives. We give 100% effort to training our future home healthcare aides to work hard but never forget the kindness that needs to be at the core of the care,” said Santiago.
These important positions keep women on the front lines with society’s most vulnerable – the sick, disabled, elderly, and injured. Without these talented and heart-led healthcare professionals, it’s unlikely that many patients would heal as well as they do.
Aiding the Aides
Santiago has dedicated decades of her career to improving the quality of these services. Six years ago, she struck out on her own, founding Home Health Aide Training Institute with the goal of producing high-quality future employees to care for those who need them most.
However, it pains her that she also has to advocate for her students, 3,000 graduates, and other aides working in hard positions for which they are not adequately paid. This sad state of affairs pushes many talented aides out of the field and into easier and better-paid work, despite an industry that desperately needs their educated and empathetic care.
For these reasons, she also advocates in the community for fair payment and improvements in general work conditions for her students, each one a future home health aide practitioner.
Thankfully, New York disability advocates like Santiago recently got the minimum wage for home health workers in New York increased by $2 per hour through the Fair Pay for Home Care bill.
But Santiago believes it should be higher and could go up to $22.50 per hour. It’s a cause she plans to continue fighting for.
“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 CEO.
Leading With Kindness
Santiago knows the kind of heart her students put into their jobs because she trains them to do just that. She bases her institute’s core values on her mission of being kind, leading with heart, and injecting empathy into everything you do.
“I started from a basic question when creating my business plan: ‘If it was the end of a patient’s life, how can we make it best for them?’” she shared. To her, the answer is obvious: to pair professional service with kind caring.
She is a true believer that what sets a great aide apart from a good one is how kind they are. Her institute’s curriculum is based on kindness and caring with the compassion that will help patients get through their most difficult days with dignity, skilled care, and respect.
“I train my students to ensure that their patient is properly cared for in all aspects, both physical and emotional,” Santiago said. And she has gotten national recognition for her efforts. The healthcare executive recently received the Presidential Tribute of Excellence Award for her lifetime contributions to care in the community.
The award was presented to her by U.S. President Joe Biden, who noted that her courses are among the best in the country and she displays pride and joy in helping others.
“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.
With caring professionals like Santiago educating the nation’s future healthcare aides while also advocating for their compensation, the industry is bound to become a more kind and better-compensated place.
About Maria Santiago
Maria Santiago is the CEO and Director of Home Health Aide Training Institute (HHATI.com), which trains certified nursing assistants and-certified home health aides. She recently won the Presidential Tribute of Excellence Award and her team has taught over 3,000 students to date. For more information about getting involved in home healthcare, please visit www.hhati.com