Home Care Aide Frequently Asked Questions

Who must be certified as a home care aide?

All long-term care workers (unless otherwise exempt) must be certified as home care aides within 200 days of their date of hire. Long-term care workers include:

  • Home care agency caregivers.
  • Assisted living facility caregivers
  • Adult family home caregivers.
  • Respite care providers.
  • Individual providers: Caregivers who contract with the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to provide personal care.
  • Community residential service providers: Caregivers in group home services, group training home services, supported living services or voluntary placement services in a residential facility for children.
  • Any other direct care workers providing home or community-based services to the elderly or people with functional or developmental disabilities.
May I work before I receive a home care aide certification?

Yes, once you have completed two hours of orientation and three hours of safety training approved by the Department of Social and Health Services, you may begin working.

You must have 75 hours of DSHS-approved training within 120 days of your date of hire or you must stop working.

You must have your home care aide certification within 200 days of your date of hire or you must stop working.

Were some workers specifically excluded from the definition of a long-term care worker?

Yes, the following are not long-term care workers:

  • Caregivers in nursing homes, hospitals or other acute care settings.
  • Residential rehabilitation center caregivers.
  • Hospice agency, adult day center or adult day health center caregivers.
  • People not paid by the state or by private agencies or facilities licensed by the state to provide personal care services.

Workers not defined as long-term care workers will not qualify for an exemption based on prior work experience.

Which long-term care workers do not have to be certified as home care aides?
  • Exemption based on prior work experience
    People employed as long-term care workers between January 1, 2011, and January 6, 2012, who completed all training requirements in effect as of the date of hire.
  • Exemptions based on Department of Health license or certification
    • Registered nurses
    • Advanced registered nurse practitioners
    • Licensed practical nurses
    • Certified nursing assistants
  • Other exemptions from certification

    Community residential service providers: Caregivers in group home services, group training home services, supported living services or voluntary placement services in a residential facility for children.

    Individual providers, reimbursed by DSHS, who provide 20 hours or less of care for one person in any calendar month, or who provide only respite services and who work less than 300 hours in any calendar year.

    A home health aide who is employed by a Medicare-certified home health agency and has met the requirements of 42 CFR Part 484.36.

    A person with an active special education endorsement granted by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

May I apply for a home care aide certification if I am exempt?

Yes, exempt long-term care workers may choose to apply for a home care aide certification.

Long-term care workers who have certified nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse, registered nurse or advanced registered nurse practitioner licenses, or who are exempt because they worked between January 1, 2011 and January 6, 2012, will not be required to submit verification of training but must meet all other certification requirements. Other exempt workers may need to complete training to qualify for a home care aide certification.

All exempt workers are required to meet all certification requirements, which include passing the certification examination, and submission to a state and federal background check through the Department of Social and Health Services. The Department of Health may require its own background check for workers seeking to qualify for a home care aide certification.

How do long-term care workers who were employed between January 1, 2011, and January 6, 2012, (or their employers) prove they are exempt from the home care aide certification?

The long-term care workers and their employers should have a letter from the employers who employed them between January 1, 2011, and January 6, 2012. The letter should include the following:

  • Date of hire
  • Last day of work, if applicable
  • Job title and job description
  • A description of the training required on the date of hire and verification that the training was completed. If the worker received a certificate of completion for the training, a copy of the certificate will be required.

Individual providers paid by DSHS may use proof of employment from DSHS or the client.

The employment verification form in the application packet may be used in place of a letter.

Do long-term care workers who do not provide hands-on care have to meet training and certification requirements?

A long-term care worker who performs activities of daily living must meet the new training and certification requirements. Activities of daily living (ADLs) are defined as self-care abilities such as bathing, eating, using the toilet, dressing and transfer.

Long-term care workers who perform only instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), such as housekeepers, dining room staff members, or maintenance workers not performing any ADLs, are not required to meet training and certification requirements. Instrumental activities of daily living include activities such as cooking, shopping, housekeeping, doing laundry, transportation to medical appointments and shopping, working and managing personal finances.

If a worker performs both ADLs and IADLs, such as a bus driver for a boarding home who also assists the client with getting in and out of the bus, the worker is required to meet the new training and certification requirements.

What are the requirements for the home care aide certification?

Submit a home care aide certification application with the application fee and examination fees to the Department of Health within 14 days of hire. Application and examination fees can be submitted together in one payment method.

Submit to a state and fingerprint-based federal background check through DSHS. If you are not currently working, you are not able to obtain the DSHS background check. The Department of Health may require its own background check.

Seventy-five hours of training through a training program approved by DSHS. Applicants that are part of SEIU will take training through SEIU.

Successful completion of the certification knowledge and skills exam administered by Prometric.

I have questions about the home care aide application and would like to speak to someone before I submit it. Whom may I contact?

You may contact the Department of Health home care aide credentialing unit at 360-236-2700.

The application requires that I certify I have had four hours of AIDS education. I don’t have this because I need to submit the application within 14 days of hire. What should I do?

If you are required to be certified as a home care aide, you will complete the AIDS education and training requirement in the 75-hour basic training course. You will not need to complete this attestation on the application.

If you are exempt from certification and training and are choosing to become certified as a home care aide, you must complete the AIDS education and training attestation.

Who is required to get an OCA number (originating case agency number) and how do I get an OCA number?

All long-term care workers must submit to a state and federal background check through the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). If you are an individual provider, an OCA number will be generated on the Fingerprint appointment form you get at contracting. If you work for an agency or facility, you will complete a name and date of birth background check through your employer. An OCA number is generated from this background check. The Department of Health will require the OCA number associated with the fingerprint background check on the home care aide certification application.

Employers can find the DSHS background forms on the Background Check website.

If you are not currently working, you will not be able to obtain the DSHS background check, and Department of Health may require its own background check.

How do I apply for the home care aide examination?

You automatically apply for the examination when you apply for home care aide certification. The application asks for specific examination information that is required. The Department of Health will send your authorization to test to the examination vendor, Prometric, once you have completed training and submitted all required documentation.

Please note: Prometric will not schedule you for the exam without an email address.

  • If you have questions about your application, contact the Department of Health at 360-236-2700.
  • If you have questions about what to expect on test day or related issues, contact Prometric at [email protected] or 800-324-4689.
How will I know where and when to take the examination?

You will receive an “Admission to Test” email from Prometric, which will include the date, time and place of the examination. Once you receive the exam date from Prometric, it’s very important to take the exam on your scheduled exam date. After you have completed the examination, Prometric will send the examination results to the Department of Health.

Where can I find more information about the examination?

Review all the information on the Prometric website. Read all the information in the Candidate Information Booklet (PDF). You will also find links to examination preparation materials as well as a listing of the Washington test sites.

How do I register to retest?

All retesting will need to be scheduled through Prometric. Please see the Prometric website for more information.

How do I request testing accommodations or an individual interpreter?

Print and complete the Testing Accommodations Request packet (PDF) and submit it directly to Prometric. Please see the Prometric website for more information.

Individual interpreters are available only for languages that are not currently offered. Languages that are offered include Amharic, Arabic, Simplified Chinese (written) and Cantonese (spoken), Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Somali, Tagalog, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

Is the home care aide examination offered in foreign languages?

Yes, the home care aide examination is offered in Amharic, Arabic, Simplified Chinese (written) or Cantonese (spoken), Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Somali, Tagalog, Ukrainian and Vietnamese. There is an oral and written translation for English and all translated languages.

What if an applicant speaks a foreign language other than English and those listed above?

The Department of Health offers an interpreter to read the home care aide examination for people who speak languages other than those in which the examination is currently translated and offered.

How does an applicant request an interpreter to read the examination?

An applicant who wishes to request an interpreter to read the examination must submit a request for test accommodation directly to Prometric. The form must state the language for which the applicant needs an interpreter.

The test accommodation request form is available on the Prometric website. The applicant will not check a box for a language other than English. The interpreter will translate from the English examination.

If my ability to read, write or speak English is limited, how may I request more time to get certified?

The department may issue a provisional certification to long-term care workers with limited English proficiency to allow them more time to complete the requirements to become certified a home care aide.

To request a provisional certification, check the “yes” box near the top of the home care aide certification application for the question, “I am applying for a provisional certificate which is available for home care aides whose ability to read, write and speak English is limited.”

How may I request a provisional certification if I have already submitted an application to the department?

Please fill out the home care aide provisional certification supplemental form and submit it to the department.

How long may I work with the provisional certification?

The provisional license will be issued to you on day 200 from the date you were hired. This date will be based on the information you submit on your application. The provisional certificate will expire 60 days after it’s issued.

May I renew the provisional certification?

No, the provisional certification can be issued only once, valid for no more than 60 days.

What if my provisional certification expires and I still haven’t become certified as home care aide?

You must stop providing care and will not be paid for services until you complete the requirements and become home care aide-certified by the department.

When does my home care aide certification expire? What do I need to renew my certification?

The home care aide certification expires every year on your birthday. If your next birthday is within three months of the initial certification, your first renewal date will be on the second birthday after initial certification.

A renewal fee is required for renewal. For your first renewal, if your certification was active for more than a year, you will be required to sign an affidavit indicating you have completed 12 hours of continuing education.

Future renewals are due on your birthday. They require both the renewal fee and the signed affidavit indicating you have completed 12 hours of continuing education.

If you let your certification expire and it has been expired for less than one year, you must pay additional fees. If your certification has expired for more than one year, you will need to submit an expired home care aide certification activation application with additional fees. If your certification has expired for three years or more, you will need to retake both the required training and the home care aide certification knowledge and skills examination. If you’re a member of SEIU, check with it for available classes.

Will I be required to prove that I took the 12 hours of continuing education?

The Department of Health will perform random audits of people who hold home care aide credentials. If you’re audited, you must submit proof you have completed 12 hours of continuing education. You may do this by providing a copy the certificate(s) of completion for all continuing education courses you completed. Continuing education courses must be approved by the Department of Social and Health Services. A list of approved continuing education training providers is online.

Am I required to complete continuing education if I am exempt from certification and training?

Yes, everyone working as a long-term care worker must complete 12 hours of continuing education per year. Your employer needs proof of your continuing education. If you are a member of SEIU, check with it for available classes. Otherwise, you can find continuing education classes at the Department of Social and Health Services training website.