A simple guide to coronavirus to share with patients and clients

Here’s a simple guide to COVID-19 that you can share with your clients and patients.

By Eliana Ifill

For the past few weeks, the talk about coronavirus and COVID-19 has spread all over the news, social media networks, and even daily chats with everyone in your life.

But what exactly is COVID-19?

Understand COVID-19

First, let’s distinguish between coronavirus and COVID-19:

  • Coronavirus is a type of virus known to cause several diseases to humans and some animals. These diseases can range from mild, like the common cold, to severe, like pneumonia.
  • COVID-19, on the other hand, means “coronavirus disease 2019.” It is the illness caused by a type of coronavirus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

[Related: Health Insurance Updates]

How does COVID-19 spread?

The easiest way for the virus to go from one person to another is through direct contact with respiratory (through the nose or mouth) droplets from someone who is infected.

The virus can be spread by coming into contact with objects that have been contaminated. The virus may be able to last for days or even weeks on surfaces, according to National Institutes of Health. This research means that people may get the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects.

How can you tell if you or someone has COVID-19?

While there’s evidence to believe that some patients show no signs of illness while infected with SARS-CoV-2, there are symptoms you can keep an eye on. A dry cough, fever, and trouble breathing are signs of COVID-19.

COVID-19 is similar to a cold or flu, but differs in a few key ways:

  • A cold will usually cause a runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat, and fatigue.
  • A flu tends to include a fever or chills, body aches, and even weakness.

While everyone is at risk, COVID-19 affects older patients, patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, and those with suppressed immune systems the hardest.

Here’s an important takeaway from the CDC: “Diseases can make anyone sick regardless of their race or ethnicity. Fear and anxiety about COVID-19 can cause people to avoid or reject others even though they are not at risk for spreading the virus.” The CDC shares this and other facts for clients and patients on the web or through this downloadable document (PDF).

Prevent COVID-19

Basic hygiene and some social changes can help keep you and people around you healthy. Some tips to remember:

  • Cover your face when sneezing or coughing, preferably with a disposable tissue, and thoroughly wash your hands afterwards.
  • Wash your hands carefully and regularly to prevent anything you’ve come in contact with from entering your body. This means with soap and water for 20 seconds.

On LinkedIn, health care consultant Dr. Nicolas Argy says these are some of the most common mistakes with handwashing.

“You are fastidious: you wash constantly. You think it is time because you touched a potential dirty surface.

1 You turn on the water
2 You wash thoroughly for 20 seconds
3 You turn off the water

Perfect, right?

NO WRONG

The faucet is contaminated because you touched it with dirty hands. Use a wipe or paper towel or tissue to turn off the water or else you recontaminate yourself.”

  • Avoid touching your face to stop the virus from reaching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Declutter your home, workspace, or wherever you’re spending the most time. An empty desk is easier to clean and you’re removing surface areas where the virus might hide.
  • Stay home. Avoid crowded areas and stay at least six feet away from others—if you can smell the garlic they ate last night or their deodorant, you’re too close. Don’t ride the elevator in groups, and avoid public transportation if possible.
  • If you must go out, remove your “outside clothes” as soon as you can when you’re home, and put them directly in the washing machine. If you can’t, keep a separate basket for dirty clothes only. Avoid touching things like your bed or couch before cleaning up.

The WHO’s Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public has detailed materials and videos you can download and share.

If you have caught the virus, it’s very important that you continue to practice these tips to prevent exposing others to the disease. Since there is no known cure, as with colds and the flu, preventing COVID-19 from spreading is the only way to stop this pandemic for now.

10 skills CHWs can learn right now—without leaving the couch

Use at-home time to brush up on existing skills or pick up some new ones.

The now-global spread of coronavirus is affecting everyone. This disease has brought a host of medical, economic, and political problems. It’s brought all of us—CHWs, supervisors, program managers, clients, and patients alike–a ton of uncertainty and anxiety. This can have an enormous impact on everyone’s emotional and physical wellbeing.

Whenever you’re feeling unsure and anxious about the things you can’t control, it can be helpful to focus on the things you can control, such as your education. While you or your staff might be stuck at home or in a quiet facility, the Internet is still on. So rather than panic-scrolling through social media feeds about toilet paper, put that energy into picking up some new skills or improving the ones you already have.

[Related: The 27 New Skills You Can Now Learn on CHWTraining]

10 Skills CHWs Can Learn from Home

They say there is no such thing as useless knowledge. These 10 skills are definitely worth learning—and learning them can make time based at home time well spent. In the future, these skills form a great workforce development path and can make each CHW a better worker.

  1. Meditation and mindfulness techniques
  2. Depression, Anxiety and Stress
  3. COVID-19
  4. Smoking cessation
  5. Chronic illness
  6. Immunizations
  7. Motivational Interviewing interventions
  8. Healthy cooking
  9. Hand hygiene
  10. Language

1. Meditation and mindfulness techniques

Relaxation and mindfulness are skills that can help you in your personal and professional life—especially now when everything feels uncertain. Mindfulness practices can help people manage stress, deal with serious illness, and reduce anxiety and depression, according to the NIH. These are helpful skills to pass on to clients, employees, and the people around you.

“The most important thing to know when starting a meditation or mindfulness practice is that there is no right or wrong way to ‘do’ it,” says Laura Wells, a facilitator and coach who works with individuals, teams, and organizations to increase focus and build compassionate leadership.

“It is simply about learning to relax into the present moment — there’s nothing we have to, or can, ‘do’ to make the present moment happen. This is about allowing the space for a minute or two or five to not be in charge of what’s occurring. Simply breathing and bringing attention to what is already here in our experience.”

If you want to practice now, you can join Wells for a free 30-minute virtual meditation and connection session Tuesday, Mar 24, 2020, 12:10 PM Pacific Time. Click here to join and use meeting ID: 144 588 211.

2. Depression, Anxiety and Stress


Nearly everyone is feeling depression, anxiety, and stress right now, so it helps you and anyone you work with if you can pick up management skills. Start by recognizing the symptoms of depression from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Then what to do if you see them in yourself or in another. This guide will help you understand when it’s time to make a behavioral health referral.

Supervisors and program managers supporting a community health team with limited resources can easily feel overwhelmed. You have to think about self-care strategies to share, how to help them control stress, and spot signs of burnout and compassion fatigue.

Sign up for Supporting Mental Wellness in CHW Teams, a free on-demand session on improving your team’s mental wellness, identify signs that an employee is at risk for depression, anxiety, or secondary trauma, and show you how you can help your team improve their personal and professional lives.

3. COVID-19

If you’re looking to learn more about coronavirus, then the WHO is the place to start for any health professional. The OpenWHO Massive Online Open Courses for COVID-19 provide learning resources for health professionals, decision-makers, and the public. As the pandemic continues to evolve, new resources will be added, additional language versions will continue to be rolled out, and existing courses will be updated to best reflect the changing context. Some sample courses are “Operational Planning Guidelines to Support Country Preparedness and Response” and “Infection Prevention and Control.”

4. Smoking cessation and vaping


People with unhealthy lungs are particularly at risk for complications from coronavirus, and many other health issues. Learning about these risks can help you talk clearly to clients who smoke. There’s plenty of new information regarding severe lung disease associated with using vaping devices and e-cigarette products, so now is a time to learn about that, especially among youth.

“There are many websites, webinars and listserves available for folks to learn the latest on commercial tobacco and vaping,” Says Norilyn de la Peña, Cessation and Outreach Project Manager at Public Health — Seattle & King County. It’s important to seek resources that are credible. People want information on what vaping products are how to have effective conversations about their use. She suggests learning about these tobacco cessation and vaping education topics for all providers:

  • What the products are and how they are used
  • Why it’s important to keep flavored tobacco and nicotine from youth (affects on brain and lung development, increase chance of addiction, increase likelihood of tobacco use, etc.)
  • Media literacy and tobacco and vape marketing intentionally target low-income communities
  • The importance of sharing valid information from appropriate online resources
  • How to talk to young people about vaping
  • Alternatives to nicotine and tobacco use; positive stress management and coping skills
  • What resources are available

She recommends the following general resources:

  • Truth Initiative
  • AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
  • SCLC (Smoking Cessation Leadership Center)

Public Health — Seattle & King County’s website has Lung disease related to vaping and e-cigarette use. It has an excellent collection of materials, templates, and FAQs for providers, partners, and schools on understanding vaping and how it affects the lungs.

5. Chronic illness

CHWs are vital to successfully managing and avoiding chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, and cervical cancer. Since CHWs are health brokers who can connect providers with communities, take some time to learn more about the chronic diseases in your community and how CHWs can help.

If you’re a program manager or administrator new to CHWs, do some deep reading on building the policies and systems that support CHWs to see how they fit in with your organization. Start with the excellent document “Addressing Chronic Disease Through Community Health Workers: A Policy and Systems-Level Approach,” (PDF) from the CDC. Then take some time to watch Examining Community Health Worker Models in Managing Chronic Conditions.

If you’re a CHW, you can learn how chronic illness and mental health are closely linked. This video Ask an Expert – Depression and Chronic Illness Webinar (1:19) explores the relationship between depression and Nephrotic Syndrome, specifically, but the topic relates to people living with many chronic diseases.

CHWs can also save on CHWTraining’s chronic illness bundle. It helps you master working with clients with breast cancer (Breast Cancer Screening), cervical cancer (Cervical Cancer Screening and HPV), Diabetes and Prediabetes, and High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). Along the way, you’ll learn how to screen for disease, talk to clients, and connect to resources in your agency and community.

6. Immunizations


Parents and individuals are too reluctant to get vaccines, thanks in part to too much mistaken information. Patient education is an important way to let people know that vaccinations have an excellent safety record and are an important part of preventing serious diseases. A simple flu shot, covered by many health plans, is the best way for people to protect themselves and their children from getting the influenza.

The AAP is an excellent resource for educating parents and any individual on immunizations. It includes the recommended immunization schedule, information for parents, and communication tips for the conversations you’ll have with parents.

7. Motivational Interviewing interventions

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a technique you can use to help people discover their own reasons for positive change in a non-confrontational way. It was originally developed as a way to help people quit smoking, but MI techniques can be used for helping people make any kind of behavioral change.

Demonstration and practice are the best ways to learn and improve your MI skills, so spend some time reviewing some sample intervention videos, such as these:

8. Healthy cooking


Nutrition and health are closely related, from a healthy diet helping children grow up to avoid chronic diseases to managing—and maybe even reversing—conditions like diabetes. Learning healthy cooking is an excellent skill you can pass on to your clients, and your own family.

Try My Doctor – Kaiser Permanente, which has many how-to videos, ranging from short-and-sweet lessons like Add Flavor Without Salt (2:33) for hypertension, to Tips for Cooking Healthier (2:01), to in-depth webinars like Fresh Food Ideas (1:01:00) for parents.

9. Hygiene

Time to get serious about hand hygiene. Learn, demonstrate, repeat.

10. Language

Communication is a key skill for CHWs, and being able to speak and understand more than English helps. Learning a foreign language, such as Spanish for English-speakers or English for Spanish-speakers, is a great way to unlock better employment options and connect clients to resources.

Smart phone apps like Duolingo are great vocabulary builders, and you can do them whenever you have a few free minutes. Another fun one is Lirica, which matches language with pop music. It takes the music from such musicians as Enrique Iglesias and turns it into Spanish vocabulary and grammar lessons.

Keep building skills

Just reading a PDF or a PowerPoint presentation isn’t enough to really learn. Practice your skills as soon as you can. Keep refreshing your skills once you’ve learned something. Bookmark this page so you can keep revisiting these resources and keep them fresh.

Online Training Beginner’s Guide for Program Managers

Online Training Beginner’s Guide for Program Managers

Health agencies, systems, and state and local departments have never had so much technology at their fingertips. Training technology and online courses have developed just in time to meet the rising workforce of community health workers (CHWs). Now is when you want to move your training online.

Online learning is also a logical way to train teams of all sizes while containing the coronavirus outbreak. Workshops and conferences are either canceled, such as Northwest Rural Health Conference, or going virtual, such as The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), in the wake of COVID-19.

[Related: The Top CHW Conferences of 2020]

Moving training online also means you can quickly get staff up to speed on requirements and new skills exactly when you need it. A course on immunizations, hygiene, or home visit safety can sit at the ready for exactly when CHWs need skill refreshers or new information to deliver clients.

“The reality is that remote work cultures are on the rise as more individuals and team leadership have come to understand the value and advantages of this work structure,” says Robert Glazer, a capacity-building and leadership consultant and author of the book Elevate. He gives tips on migrating teams to work from home in a recent article.

Number of people who would like to work remotely
Image: Buffer

CHWs appreciate being able to learn online, according to the learner feedback through CHWTraining courses and our partner courses. Being able to use forum posts, for example, can keep the conversation flowing over the entire duration of a course. And many like being able to review materials whenever they want a refresher.

“I like that the forum posts were interactive,” said one health promoter who took CHWTraining’s Diabetes and Prediabetes. “They’re a good way to communicate your thoughts as the course progressed.”

The motivations for transitioning from face-to-face to online are clear. Making the leap to launch educational technology can be done gradually, all at once, or in a limited way.

So how do you know where to start when launching a CHW ed-tech program?

Steps to Moving Training Online

1)      Assess online training tools.

Start by assessing what sorts of tools you have for online training. This makes your shift easy, because the infrastructure is already there. It pays to ask around, because there may be more available to you than you think.

We regularly work with clients who share an office with others with robust and useful training tools that aren’t shared. This happens regularly when programs are grant funded. The grant might support breast and cervical cancer screenings, but not HIV/AIDS client support. But both areas depend on outreach engagement skills, so why not share when you can?

Once you start asking around, you might find others have a full-fledged learning management system (LMS) that’s used by your organization for everything from HIPAA training to clinician training. Or you can open up your own subscription more targeted courses through CHWTraining to others who can use it.

Expand your search for training tools to include other less-obvious resources, including:

  • Ways to have discussions (Slack, message boards, group chat)
  • Webinar technology (WebEx, Zoom, Skype)
  • Video recordings (YouTube, Vimeo, CDC)

2)      Begin with blended learning.

You split the difference between keeping some training in person and pushing other topics online for a blended learning strategy. Blended learning mixes the best of training delivery methods to reach a variety of learning needs and varying subject matter. A live session allows for participants to meet each other and make connections with instructors and classmates that result in better retention. It can also be helpful for delivering material that’s better suited to in-person instruction.

For example, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s CHW and Patient Navigation Online Course includes a 10-week online element that begins and concludes with face-to-face teaching. The instructors cover such topics as communication techniques in the group, which gives participants a chance to try out newfound skills with their colleagues. Other topics, such as documentation skills, convert easily to an online format.

3)      Assign coaches or peer learning partners.

Many states with CHW certificate programs require learners to complete some degree of field training. Even if your employer doesn’t include this requirement, it’s still a great idea to pair a learner with someone who has experience on the job. Set up a system where supervisors or coaches can guide recent participants through using those foundational skills on the job.

This gives learners a chance to apply what they learn online to a real-life setting. The real benefit of having courses online is that learners can revisit courses while they’re doing fieldwork. It also makes it easier to sneak in training between visits with clients or on weekends and evenings.

Moving training online does have many moving parts. But it can be manageable, save costs, and be useful for CHWs. Ready to take your training to the next level? Contact us for a free consultation.

5 Ways To Save Your Budget with a Sustainable CHW Training Program

When it comes to training community health workers (CHWs) for your agency, it’s more important than ever that you demonstrate a sustainable program.

The research already shows that CHWs can save organizations millions, especially when it comes to supporting complex patients and high ER room utilizers. CHW programs offer proven return on investment (ROI) when implemented effectively. A recent analysis by Penn Medicine showed its community health worker program yields $2.47 for every $1 invested annually by Medicaid.

[Related: Most Important Job Skills To Build a CHW Career]

At the same time, it’s vital not to sacrifice quality. We meet agencies on a regular basis that train their staff by emailing out a PDF document. That might be a helpful resource document, but it’s not a training program. You’ll want to keep your training relevant, up-to-date with health guidelines, and engaging enough that your staff actually wants to participate in it.

Considering the pressures on keeping a CHW program afloat, your strategy for creating a new program or maintaining an initiative needs to be flexible, smart, and strategic. Anything you can do to keep costs down is a benefit. It’s important to remember that while a CHW training program is a necessary investment, not all expenses are expensive.

5 Strategies for Reducing the Cost of Training CHWs

  1. Calculate the cost of your existing training.
  2. Centralize your education efforts.
  3. Cut travel related to training and move online.
  4. Partner up with other programs, departments, and agencies.
  5. Re-examine Medicaid.

Here are several examples that you can follow to train your CHWs without over spending and staying within a budget, whether you’re responsible for a small, midsize, or large organization.

1. Calculate the cost of your existing training.

Deciphering the true costs of online training is a complicated task that can easily reach beyond the boundaries of any grant or budget line item. You may be paying more for training than you think. Think about the cost of updating outdated materials or using expensive trainers. Broaden your search to dig up all the costs you and your colleagues might be feeding into training–and identify ways to trim and consolidate (more on that below).

Here are some places to look when calculating your existing training costs, but remember this is only a start:

  • Room rentals
  • Facilitators
  • Per diem for traveling CHWs
  • Lunch
  • Materials
  • Communication
  • Marketing costs
  • Tuition

Calculate cost of CHW training2. Centralize your education efforts.

Many agencies have multiple departments training similar people in the same skills. Someone who is a case manager in one department might be doing the same work as a CHW in another. If they both need to learn outreach skills, then train them together.

This also goes for partnerships with training organizations. Many of our clients don’t realize at first that they can bring all their online courses into CHWTraining. We can host many different types of courses in one learning management system. This can be a tremendous savings, because it means that our clients can completely eliminate the redundant cost of hosting training for different people in different systems.

3. Cut travel related to training and move online.

Travel is the number one budget-eater when it comes to training. Airfare, hotels, meals, time away from the office…it can amount to thousands for each employee. End it. Just stop paying for any travel and offer e-learning.

This can be a game-changer in more ways than one. Not only are you avoiding costs associated with travel, you’re also making it much more convenient for your workers to access educational content in an engaging format whenever they need it. This could be when they’re home, when they have time between seeing clients or patients, or when they have a critical need for skills, such as information about finding immunizations during a flu outbreak.

Elearning courses can be updated quickly and easily, and they often don’t need a facilitator at all. Saving staffing and travel while making training better and more accessible is a solid way to boost your ROI.

4. Partner up with other programs, departments, and agencies.

Your partner agencies or neighboring departments likely have similar training needs to you. Start networking and find a way to share the expense of learning. Bonus: Your CHWs benefit from more cross-departmental networking, and it makes their job of making referrals easier.

The more you ask around, the more you can identify internal and external subject-matter experts who can supplement any existing training efforts.

Imagine that you have an asthma home visit program that requires your CHWs to go door-to-door to help clients understand their asthma care plans and identify allergens and triggers. Now imagine that you contact your agency’s EMS coordinator and explain that your CHWs are in clients’ homes. Your EMS partner pulls out a Vial of Life kit and offers to show your team how it works and how they can set it up with clients.

Think how that one contact could significantly improve the life of your clients and enrich your internal training efforts.

5. Re-examine Medicaid.

CHWs are billable providers, although federal codes and regulations could make it difficult to allow for direct billing. “The Medicaid SS1115 waiver permits states to use federal funds in ways that do not conform to federal standards, so in this case Medicaid funds can be used to support CHW programs,” according to the American Hospital Association (AHA).

Ready to start training your CHWs?

Request a free consultation today!