Maria Santiago and Home Health Aide Training Institute Have Been Put Empathy Into Caring for 6 Years

Updated on December 6, 2022
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For the last six years, CEO and Director Maria Santiago has run Home Health Aide Training Institute (HHATI) with a single mission: to make life better for her patients. This means teaching caring with compassion and bringing empathy back to the industry.

The Institute’s approach seems to be working; they’ve just celebrated their sixth birthday and are building quite a reputation in the industry and country for their practical teaching with an emotional component. They even received a lifetime achievement award from U.S. President Joe Biden for caring for the community.

In just a few short years, they have graduated over 3,000 students, who are now working around the country, traveling or serving at facilities as aides or nurses, and spreading Santiago’s caring methodology even further into the home health aide field.  

The institute approaches a home health care curriculum differently than other schools. Of course, all the basics from taking blood pressure to giving medical massages and assisting with medications are covered.But,each module of lessons has components that address related emotional and psychological issues that patients might face — and how aides can be professional yet compassionate when providing an empathetic dimension of care.  

“The reason why I wanted to start an institute was, and 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. 

Taking blood pressure, transporting patients, and administering medications can be taught, but heart needs to come from inside.  

Serving Two Communities

Santiago’s role, in her opinion, is a dual one. She is in the business of teaching aides in order to provide better care to patients, but she also wants to give her students the tools they need to provide the best care, launch a wonderful career, and provide well for themselves and their families.  

“I know what it’s like for nurses and healthcare workers to garner the education needed. They need and want the skills, and there can be a lot of costs associated with completing the medical training. The costs are especially difficult for aspiring aides that come from underprivileged backgrounds. That’s a big reason why I launched my company,” explained Santiago. 

The Institute teaches in Spanish and English using a state-mandated curriculum designed at a sixth-grade level reading and perception level. This is wonderful for students that have emigrated to the U.S. from another education system and for whom English may not be their first language. 

“I train my students to ensure that their patient is properly cared for in all aspects, both physical and emotional,” said Santiago. 

Past patients and their families have reported that aides from Santiago’s Institute helped them to get through difficult recoveries, hard emotional terrain, and to deal professionally and empathetically with end-of-life issues.

A Caring CEO

Santiago has been in the home health aide industry for over a decade. It’s always been one of her pain points with the industry that aides seem not to care enough about individual patients. She refers to this as an “empathy gap” — and it’s a gap she intends to help close through her teachings. 

One of the ways she does this is by creating a teaching atmosphere that is spiritually in tune with higher powers. “I believe that we are all on a journey from God, and I’m trying to help people get where they need to go on their unique journeys,” she said. 

The CEO was raised by her great-grandparents. Of course, as aged relatives, once she reached her preteens, they needed as much care as they provided. So, in a way, she has been caring for people her entire life. It was her dream to launch a company to help provide care for people and improve the lives of everyone around her.

Heartwarming Stories

It’s not surprising, given the way that Santiago runs her institute, that she has collected lots of warm-fuzzy stories from patients and aides over the last half a decade. 

From a patient with tongue cancer whose aide would make a daily game of letting him choose an ice cream flavor and hand-feeding it to him to an aide caring for a former nun with naval cancer who she would take to church and pray with daily, Santiago beams like a proud mom when she shares stories of the care provided by her grads.  

“They don’t have to do these things, not at all, but they want to,” she said. They know that these patients are going through the hardest transitions of their lives, and having learned from Santiago, they want to show extra care and empathy. 

With the values that this caring healthcare CEO is injecting into her industry, we are sure to see aides around the country leading with empathy and compassion. 

About Maria Santiago

Maria Santiago is the CEO and Director of Home Health Aide Training Institute (HHATI), which trains nurses in board-certified home health aide. 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 

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.