The White Plains Examiner

White Plains Home Health Aide Training Center Graduates First Class

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Michelle Poole with Isis Djata, Neighbors Home Care Services Director.
Michelle Poole with Isis Djata, Neighbors Home Care Services Director.

By Andrew Vitelli – With the nation’s population aging and an increasing number of seniors looking to stay at home for end-of-life care, a newly launched training center in White Plains is equipping residents to work as home health aides.

The White Plains Education and Training Center graduated its first class last month, with 10 graduates from Westchester and the Bronx earning Home Health Aide (HHA) certification. The intensive three-week course is run by Neighbors Home Care Services, which has been providing HHA training since 2009 but opened its White Plains center this year.

“The trend in home care is that a lot of patients really want to stay home,” Neighbors Home Care Services Director Isis Djata explained. “So that’s why there is a demand for home health aides.”

The intensive three-week training program allows the students, some already working in health care and others looking to enter the field, to receive classroom and hands-on training as well as clinical practice. The students are given 22 exams during the course based on their classroom instruction. At the end of the course, they are asked to demonstrate what they’ve learned for their instructor to evaluate. If they pass, which most students do, they graduate with an HHA certification and can go on to work for Neighbors or for another Home Health Agency in New York State.

Michelle Poole, a White Plains resident who moved to the city in August, was a member of the first graduating class and is now working as an HHA at Neighbors. Poole, who previously worked as a medical technician, said she heard about the program after moving to White Plains.

“I’ve been in the health field for over 20 years, so I knew it was something I could do,” Poole said. “When I learned about the program and I’ve seen how organized it was, I thought it was a great option for me.”

Poole said the program, taught by Dr. Sylvia Watkins, is helpful for anyone looking to enter the field.

“The residents of Westchester County should take advantage of this program,” Poole said. “It is beneficial and it is very informative and they have the proper resources to help them and put them on the right track in the health care field.”

While a medical background is not necessary for the program, certain skills are needed to succeed as a home health aide.

“To be successful in the home care field, you need to be someone who is responsible,” Djata explained. “You also need someone who is patient, who understands that they are dealing with people with varying conditions. You have patients who are suffering from mental conditions. You have some patients who are suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, people that are not going to be completely coherent or with it, and you need to be patient to deal with them. And you need somebody who is loving and compassionate and will remain professional.”

The first class had 15 students enrolled, 10 of whom graduated. Four more sessions of the program are planned for 2016, with the next taking place May 9-31. Applicants to the program must pass a criminal background check as well as a 48-question reading comprehension test and must also submit a physical two weeks prior to the beginning of the classes.

Neighbors is a program of Lifting Up Westchester, which provides services to Westchester citizens in need of assistance including housing and feeding services, youth services and elderly and disabled services.

The training classes, free to the students, are funded through a Community Development Block Grant through the city of White Plains as well as grants from the Westchester Community Foundation, JPMorgan Chase and KeyBank.

Anyone interested in learning more about the program can e-mail

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