AVON PARK, Fla.–Dec. 7, 2015–South Florida State College has launched a new occupational program to meet the health care industry’s growing demand for home health aides.

The 165-hour course prepares students to provide in-home care to patients of licensed home health agencies. The course—taught over two terms— will teach students personal patient care, with an emphasis on caring for geriatric patents. Students will also learn about infection control, ethical responsibilities, and emergency response.

Home health aides provide in-home care to people recuperating from surgery, limited by a chronic illness, or suffering from dementia.

“Florida’s population mix points to an increasing demand for home health aides,” said Rebecca Sroda, dean for health sciences. “As baby boomers age and retire to communities across the state, home health agencies will need to ramp up hiring.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects demand nationally for home health aides to grow 48 percent by 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Coupled with the region’s already large population of adults 65 and older, Sroda said the new program will meet an industry need.

No state law mandates the licensing or certification of independent home health aides in Florida. Nor does Florida require a state-administered test of home health aides. But the federal government requires home health agencies that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement for patient care to ensure the home health aides they employ complete a training course.

With nearly two-thirds of Florida’s home health agencies serving Medicare and Medicaid patients, SFSC’s Sroda said the new course will prepare students to transition into a job with any agency, regardless of the funding source.

The program, including tuition, fees, and the screening will cost students $542.

The course is open to students 18 and older who have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Applicants must pass a background check that includes fingerprinting and a screening for drug use. Before final acceptance, applicants will complete a physical examination and show proof of hepatitis B vaccination.

To enroll in the home health occupational certificate program, call the SFSC Advising and Counseling Center at 863-784-7313, or email advising@southflorida.edu.