Community Health Worker Core Competencies: Level up Your Community Initiative with CHWTraining

CHWs are the frontline health workers assisting those who need it most. With effective training, your team can help bring health to underserved communities.

Individuals in underserved populations often struggle to access the medical care needed to live a long, healthy life. Issues like cultural stigma, language barriers, and bureaucracy make health care difficult or impossible to access for many marginalized communities.

Especially in remote locations or those with little to no access to healthcare, such as impoverished towns and international borders, Community Health Workers provide much-needed relief to over-burdened healthcare systems, assist in the care, and offer personal support to patients and their families as community members deal with unique health challenges.

In the US, CHWs often work with immigrant communities, women at risk of (or experiencing) abuse, families at or below the poverty line, and aging adults who require attention but not necessarily 24/7 medical assistance.

Community Health Workers Make Health Care And Disease Prevention Accessible To Communities

While CHW regulations vary across states, most programs require basic career skills and core competencies to work as a Community Health Worker, promotor de salud, or health advocate with registered organizations.

Besides hands-on experience in the field, professional CHW training is advised and should cover core competencies like:

  • Advocating for patients’ needs
  • Helping patients and families get the care they need
  • Bridging the gap between patients and their caretakers
  • Cultural nuances such as navigating language barriers and cultural stigma
  • Raising awareness about health and disease prevention
  • Identifying the needs of patients and populations
  • Assessing needs and opportunities in underserved communities
  • Engaging with individuals and organizations alike
  • Planning and implementing community events

Does your team feel prepared to take on these responsibilities?

Update Your Team’s Core Skills Training With CHWTraining’s Core CHW Competencies Course

A successful CHW program starts by ensuring your staff has a solid foundation to provide the much-needed care to patients and their loved ones. And the basic legal requirements to meet your state’s certification criteria.

Related: Curious about your state requirements? Core Competencies To Start Your CHW Program

At CHWTraining, we’re excited to announce the launch of a limited enrollment program: CHW Core Competencies, now with a Certificate of Completion.

The newly updated CHW Core Competencies course will help you shape your career, agency, and community. It covers all the basics you’ll need to promote support community members no matter where you live.

Continue your career path by following with CHW Core Competencies II. Building an effective foundation will expand your capabilities to improve health outcomes and connect clients to care.

Don’t miss out. Register now and get access to:

  • CHW Core Competencies – Foundations Curriculum (40 hours online instruction)
  • Job Growth Toolkit
    • Goal-setting worksheet
    • CHW Requirements by State
    • Professional templates (including a cover letter and resume)
  • Core Competencies Toolkit
    • Scope of Practice Template
    • Bonus case studies
    • Resources

 

 

3 Steps To Advance a CHW Career

A community health worker (CHW) job is especially rewarding and it is a critical piece of a healthcare team.

It’s also a good option for a career. There are more jobs than ever in this field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says “overall employment of health educators and community health workers is projected to grow 13% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.”

→ Enroll Now: CHW Core Competencies Online Training [Certificate]

Many CHWs use their position as a career advancement opportunity that leads to other areas of healthcare. They use a solid foundation in core skills as a stepping stone to jobs up the career ladder. You can use your experience to move into leadership roles, administrators, and more.

You’ll create your own path for advancement based on the skills you start with and where you want to go. However, here’s a rough step-by-step guide that can show you what to think about and in what order as you think about moving up the CHW career ladder.

Step 1: Attend a CHW training program

The first step is to improve that baseline education with the most essential core skills training for a CHW career. Training programs usually cover core competencies, such as communication or outreach skills. They also cover some information about health-specific topics, such as heart disease, or cultural competency. Here are the 13 most common core competencies for most employers and programs.

Step 2: Get certified

CHWs are employed in every state of the US (except South Dakota, for which no data is available), according to the BLS. Each state has independent job requirements, which vary from college degrees that take multiple years to complete to on-the-job training. Some states require certification, and some employers require certificates of completion to show successful training.

Here are some requirements from a handful of different states.

 

Step 3: Earn some on-the-job experience

CHWs almost always need to do some on-the-job training. Some programs, especially some very good state-sponsored programs, include this apprenticeship period as part of the program. Some employers provide it as part of being hired.

Step 4: Specialize

As a CHW, you can specialize in almost any area of medicine, from autism spectrum disorder to Alzheimer’s to asthma. You can work in a variety of settings, such as communities, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, doctor’s offices or schools, and each of these are in their own way a specialization.

These specializations are helpful in any CHW job, but they can also lay the groundwork to these kinds of positions:

  • Certified diabetes educator
  • Diabetes educator
  • Health educator
  • Certified drug & alcohol counselor

Step 5: Boost your training

CHWs often, but not always, need a high school diploma to get a job. If you’ve already entered a CHW job without a high school diploma or equivalent, this stage is a good time to get one.

Many CHW positions also require you to have a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential or CPR/first aid certification. If you get these, they can open many more opportunities.

Step 6: Move up into a new position

If you’ve gone through all the previous steps, you’ve already gone a long way toward your career advancement. You might already have more options and better jobs.

You might also want to think about higher level education. Being a CHW is an excellent first step to being a…

  • medical assistant
  • nurse
  • dietitian

These jobs all require an advanced degree. So explore how training you have as a CHW can lead into an associate degree. How would that associate degree lead into a bachelor’s degree? What about a foreign language skill?

Keep working, and you’ll be able to use a CHW career as a way to keep moving up the career ladder.

Smiling CHW Learner

12 Skills You Need To Build a CHW Career

Employment opportunities for community health workers (CHWs) are better than ever.  More organizations are looking for ways to include CHWs and provide more CHW core competency training for internal staff.

This has never been so true as now, while the world is fighting to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to give some relief to overtaxed health care systems. CHWs have an especially important role to play. The US Department of Homeland Security specifically called out CHWs as:

“Essential critical infrastructure workers who are imperative during the response to the COVID-19 emergency for both public health and safety as well as community well-being.”

→ Enroll Now: CHW Core Competencies Online Training [Certificate]

This is a great opportunity for anyone looking to put themselves on a CHW career path while improving health outcomes for their community.

Careful planning of a CHW career path can allow anyone who starts with an entry-level job to expand it into a rewarding career. As need for this role keeps growing, CHWs can not only increase the health knowledge of their community members but also increase their own reach to more people and other job opportunities.

CHW Job Outlook

The statistics are inspiring. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for CHWs are expected to rise 18.1% by 2026. That means that 10,400 jobs could open up. Also, salaries for already employed CHWs are increasing. Wages are good, about $19 per hour, or $39,540 every year.

Gaining the skills to become a CHW can open the door to a money-making and secure career.

Building a CHW career path–rather than just finding an entry-level job—involves understanding the core competencies and what kinds of skills are useful for growth into the future.

In order to earn a profitable job and build a lasting career, current CHWs and people who would like to be one need to keep their health and professional skills sharp. They need to take extra training and prove their knowledge and expertise through certification.

CHWTraining’s Core Competencies Training offers complete, up-to-date training for employers who want to provide staff with foundational skills and knowledge of specific health topics, such as diabetes or breast cancer.

We created the quick guide below as a tool for employers who want to build sustainable training programs and CHWs who want to understand the job qualifications.

CHW Core Competencies

CHWs are employed in every state of the US (except South Dakota, for which no data is available), according to the BLS. Each state has independent job requirements, which vary from college degrees that take multiple years to complete to on-the-job training. Some states require certification, and some employers require certificates of completion to show successful training.

CHW jobs by state

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

However, many core competencies training requirements are similar. The following are common skills required by many programs and advisory committees. Here are some CHW core competency training areas common among the Washington State Department of Health’s CHW program, the Roles and Competencies from the Community Health Worker Core Consensus (C3) Project, the US Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. You can compare more national requirements at State Community Health Worker Models from the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) or from this guide.

12 Most Important Skills To Build a CHW Career Path

CHW Core Competency Example Skills
Advocacy Skills/Capacity Building Skills
  • empowering clients
  • motivating people to manage their own health and advocate for themselves
  • helping clients and patients set and reach their goals
  • supporting behavior change
  • identifying and overcome barriers
  • understanding community cultures and ways to reach members
Care Coordination or Service Coordination and System Navigation
  • navigating systems
  • collaborating with partners to connect clients and patients to resources
  • helping service providers work together
  • telling systems about needs of people
  • helping to develop and implement care plans
Communication Skills
  • listening skills
  • language skills
  • building rapport
  • using nonverbal communication
  • resolving and avoiding conflict
  • understanding and working within culturally diverse communities
Cultural Humility/Cultural Responsiveness
  • serve as a bridge between different cultures
  • translating healthy behaviors into culturally appropriate equivalents
  • understanding and working to reduce health disparities
  • using cultural sensitivities for all diverse groups
  • behaving respectfully
  • identifying biases
Education and Facilitation Skills
  • using various ways to deliver health information clearly
  • explaining terms in plain language
  • promoting healthy behavior change
  • finding and use resources to develop self-efficacy skills
Evaluation and Research
  • identifying issues in communities and their causes
  • conducting evaluation projects
  • collecting data
  • sharing results
  • communicating to stakeholders to make changes in services
Experience and Knowledge Base
  • fully understanding the community, including social determinants of health, health issues, ways to improve health and self-care, and basic public-health principles
  • understanding how US social-service systems work
Individual and Community Assessment and Direct Services
  • identifying needs, strengths and resources of communities
  • helping meet needs
  • helping clients understand their needs and overcome barriers
  • providing social and health support
Interpersonal and Relationship-Building Skills
  • establishing trust with people and in communities
  • being open-minded
  • using Motivational Interviewing techniques
Outreach Skills, Methods and Strategies
  • developing and implementing outreach plans
  • sharing information about programs and resources
  • creating and maintain relationships with community members and partners
Professional Skills and Conduct
  • understanding and handling legal and ethical challenges
  • respecting confidentiality and privacy rights
  • responding appropriately in complex situations
  • understanding and following agency rules

Originally published Oct 31, 2019, updated October 02, 2020.