Online CHW training tools - African American woman in front of a computer

How To Train Your Team in CHW Core Competencies

Find out about what CHW Core Competencies are, CHW roles, and CHW careers. Plus, we cover cross-training your staff, and how to get state certifications for the CHWs on your team.

In this presentation, we connect live with dozens of CHW program managers, directors and CHWs to talk about CHW roles in different states, the key aspects of CHW jobs, different job titles, and how to run a successful CHW program.

Now we want to bring this valuable information to you. Register online to receive a free replay of CHW Core Competencies – How to train your team as CHWs right in your inbox.

CHW Core Competency Training

Key areas of CHW Training and Core Competencies

  • CHWs’ roles in community healthcare: How CHWs help guard off disease, prevent hospitalizations and increase life quality in the communities they serve.
  • CHW workforce, jobs, and career paths: How to plan for a long, fruitful career as a CHW or use it as a stepping stone to other health-related fields.
  • CHW roles and responsibilities: Key functions of CHWs in different organizations.
  • Where CHWs work: The most common workplaces for CHWs, from fieldwork to care facilities and beyond.
  • How CHWs impact community health: The positive effects of CHWs in their communities are varied and long-studied. The CDC has shared multiple studies about the benefits of CHW programs in communities. Yet their crucial role is often forgotten.
  • CHW core competencies and common skills: Core CHW training for state certifications and core skills every CHW needs on the job.
  • How to train your team in core competencies: How do you get started with CHW training?
  • Cross-training your staff as CHWs: Benefits and key insight into this important step in community healthcare.
  • Specialized training: Needs-based training in fields like maternal-infant health, oral health, and more.

Plus, as a thank you for joining us, you’ll receive a bundle of resources along with your video. Look out for key state requirements for CHW programs, a Core Competency handbook, and much more.

Register now and receive the replay in your email. Plus the additional resources for a successful CHW program.

CHW Core Competency Training




CHW Training Guide for Directors and Managers: Building a CHW Program Online

Health systems and public health agencies looking to have a positive impact on community members are building—or thinking about building—a community health worker program. A program for CHWs (or promotores, health navigators, or people with similar titles) can be an important strategy for reaching out to the millions of people who need it most. It’s a relatively accessible way to address the vast health inequalities in America. But when they’re forced to move CHW training online, challenges arise.

Remote Learning as a CHW Training Strategy

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 CHWs. As a program manager, you know it’s more than necessary to move training online, it’s also smart.

Online learning is also a logical way to train teams of all sizes while people work from home at least part-time. Workshops and conferences are either canceled or going virtual. While we all wait to go back to whatever “normal” will be, you can at least keep your program moving ahead as long as you and your team have a computer.

Here’s a resource for learning how to train your team as CHWs, if you’re looking for a deeper dive into the core competencies and workforce development.

Moving CHW training online also means you can quickly get staff up to speed on requirements and new skills exactly when you need them

Courses on immunizations, hygiene, or home visit safety can be 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 CHW Training Online

1) Create a CHW Training Task Force

If you’re reading this article, you already know the value of creating a CHW training program. You may even have a supervisor who sees the value. Now take your conviction that you need to keep your CHW program moving and take it to stakeholders.

Be a cheerleader, because CHWs are still criminally under-appreciated. Agencies will happily fund programs that bring money to the health system. But they’re short-sighted about programs that save money.

Assemble a CHW training task force to help spread the word about your program and help merge CHWs into your existing structure. Include leaders from your own agency, medical establishments, the community, partners.

If you work together, you can spread the word about your program, how it will help, and you won’t be the only one working on the initiative.

2) Assess online training tools for CHWs.

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 — but no one is aware and they’re not sharing them. This happens regularly when programs rely on grants. 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) your organization used for everything from HIPAA training to clinician training. Or you can open up your own subscription to 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)

3) Introduce blended learning in your CHW program.

A successful CHW training plan can include both online and on-field experiences. 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 also helps in 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. This gives participants a chance to try out newfound skills with their colleagues. Other topics, such as documentation skills, convert easily to an online format.

4) Pair CHWs in training with experienced 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, hands-on experience is irreplaceable in CHW training. It’s 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 your CHWs a chance to apply what they learn online to a real-life setting. The real benefit of moving 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.

Originally published March 13, 2020, updated March 19, 2021.


10 Skills CHWs Can Learn from Home — for Free (or Cheap!) Resources for Distance Learning

Is your community health worker team studying or working from home? Try these free new skills to learn from home.

As we head into the next year of distance learning and remote work — which might be the new normal — you and your team may be feeling ready for re-energizing with new skills.

If you’re not sure what kind of training your CHWs need, start here with a full lesson of how to start assembling a community health worker team.

10 Skills You Can Learn from Home for Free (or Cheaply)

CHWs, promotores, and similar health workers have plenty of opportunities to upgrade their training for low or no cost. That might be building language skills, or want to build self-care skills to keep resilient, this list has options. Read on to find 10 valuable skills to start working on ASAP. No matter where you are.

  1. Try Meditation and Mindfulness Techniques
  2. Cope with Depression, Anxiety, and Stress
  3. Understand COVID-19 (and Help Prevent Misinformation)
  4. Sharpen Your Core CHW Skills
  5. Learn About Chronic Illness
  6. Get Informed About Immunizations
  7. Practice Motivational Interviewing interventions
  8. Hone In on Your Healthy Cooking At Home
  9. Brush Up On Hygiene Knowledge
  10. Pick Up A New Language

1. Learn Meditation and Mindfulness Techniques

Many people have found themselves in a dark place throughout the pandemic. Anxiety and depression are soaring and, with little distraction available, everyday stress can quickly escalate and take a toll on your health.

Relaxation and mindfulness are skills that can help you everyone in their personal and professional life — especially in times of uncertainty.

Mindfulness practices are a stress management tool that can 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.”

2. Cope with Depression, Anxiety, and Stress

As you likely picked up by now, mental health during covid is kind of a big deal. Nearly everyone is feeling depression, anxiety, and stress right now, so it helps you and anyone you work with if you can pick up stress 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. Understand COVID-19 (and Help Prevent Misinformation)

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.

Looking for easy access to resources? Have a look at The Definitive Guide to the Coronavirus for CHWs for free downloads.

Related: What Can You Do After Your COVID-19 Vaccine? The CDC Just Released New Guidelines.

4. Sharpen Your Core CHW Skills

As a CHW, keeping your skills sharp and your training up to date is key in giving your community the care that they need. Luckily, it’s easy to update your CHW training online. Check out:

5. Learn About 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. Get Informed About Immunizations

Parents and individuals are too reluctant to get vaccines, thanks in part to widely-spread misinformation. 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.

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.

Especially as COVID vaccines become widely available, it’s important to understand their differences, risk factors, and benefits against the coronavirus. You can learn more by clicking COVID-19 vaccines (WHO) and COVID-19 Vaccines (CDC).

7. Practice 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. Hone In on Your Healthy Cooking At Home

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.

If you prefer reading, a few must-have resources include Taste of Home, Real Simple, and What’s Gaby Cooking.

9. Brush Up On Hygiene Knowledge

As we now know, proper hygiene is key in disease prevention, including coronavirus and many more common viruses and infections.

Now’s the time to get serious about at-home hygiene.

Here’s what to know about Running Essential Errands (CDC).

10. Pick Up A New 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.

Smartphone 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.

What Skills Are You Working On?

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. Plus, as a CHW, keeping sharp is key in providing the best service to your clients and patients.

All in all, this seems to be the perfect time to think about new skills to better market yourself, level up your career, or simply keep yourself occupied.

Originally published March 20, 2020, updated March 12, 2021.

Man's hand taking notes on paper next to a laptop

How to Create a CHW Training Plan

The benefit of having community health workers in communities and health systems is proven. More agencies than ever are hiring CHWs, promotores, or other community-focused health educators. They have such a positive outcome on access to healthcare services and set up a link between healthcare and urban and rural environments that many agencies are hiring or transforming their staff to be CHWs.

Register now for CHW Core Competencies – How to train your team as CHWs

However, laying down a training path for these staff members or volunteers is less clear. Some states and employers have strict training requirements and regulations for CHWs. Others have none. In some areas, the types of training a CHW has received limits the kinds of duties they can perform, such as taking blood pressure readings.

What’s more, every year brings a new cycle of best practices in health care, screening guidelines, new employees and promotions, and professional learning goals that set a CHW on a career ladder.

If you’re an administrator trying to work with CHWs, you can easily get lost in the maze of requirements and job changes. You might wind up with an over-trained team of CHWs who have bachelor’s degrees that they never use, or skip over core skills that would help CHWs do their job better.

Build a CHW Training Plan

A CHW training plan is the answer. The plan should be a framework that will provide a navigation system for organizing, delivering, and repeating CHW instruction whenever you need it.

If you create an annual training plan, then you can include requirements that come up year after year (e.g., HIPAA compliance) and also have a pathway for introducing new topics to keep building the skills of your CHW team.

Follow these five steps, and you’ll be on your way to setting in motion an effective learning program that can be used throughout the year.

1. Assess Your Current CHW Staff

The first step in starting an annual training plan for your program is to look at the training needs assessment to see what your CHWs need to know. Start by researching what kinds of skills your agency’s CHWs and related staff already have. And then you can note what core competencies they’re missing so you can build a comprehensive training plan.

Here’s a strategy for assessing the existing skills and core competencies your team already has.

Once you have that information, you can organize training to fill in the gaps in their knowledge and skills.

2. Check CHW Requirements in Your State

Note that your state may have different competencies for CHW certification, so you should research local requirements. Depending on where you are, your state may have legislation on your competencies and required experience as a CHW.

The Core CHW Core Competencies Resource Guide helps you start your community health worker training program by knowing what the requirements are in every state.

3. Check with Healthcare Leadership

Finding out what your stakeholders need from a program and what your CHWs need to learn will make sure that everything fits together and supports your program’s ultimate goals.

For example, imagine you run breast cancer screening program and the main goal of your program is to increase the number of mammography screenings in certain zip codes. Work backwards from there to come up with skills your team needs to know so you can deliver that to your trainees. This kind of team probably need to know the basics of what breast cancer is, risks of developing it, how it affects your community, prevention and treatment, and outreach and communication skills.

You might also want to include additional factors such as:

  • Overall agency goals or vision statement
  • The skills included in job descriptions
  • Compliance requirements, such as those for sexual harassment, HIPAA or patient rights

4. Decide Who Needs Training

Assume you’ve identified what your audience needs to learn. Next, figure out who needs to learn these skills.

Some people will be obvious, such as the CHWs directly working on your program. And others are less obvious, such as other support staff or community partners.

Think about the breast cancer screening program example above. If you ran this program, you might need to include in your plan:

  • Yourself, as well as other managers and coordinators from partner programs
  • Case managers
  • Patient navigators
  • Outreach workers
  • Nurses
  • Nonprofit community partners
  • Members of a multidisciplinary team

5. Optimize for Training Adult Learners

Keep adult learners engaged and help them retain what they learn by exposing them to the right kind of training materials. Some people define the word “training” very broadly, from a semester of college classes to a single PDF.

Keep adult learning principles in mind, and your CHWs will perform much better. Adult learning is relevant to the job, career and personal goals, task-oriented, interactive and usually self-directed.

Look at your training plan as a way to capture what works and repeat it in future offerings. It’s a great idea store the training materials in various formats to appeal to people who learn best in different ways. Some examples:

  • Written process documents especially used exactly when needed. An example would be a protocol for intakes on the phone, which is kept by the phone.
  • Screen shorts of video captures of process, live presentations, or demonstrations by in-house or outsourced experts.
  • Hosted elearning that’s available on demand. A learning management system (LMS) makes it easy to standardize training for everyone and is at hand whenever new hires need it or when veterans need an update. An LMS is a platform that you can use to deliver, track, and report on your training efforts.
  • Hands-on experience to bring the theory of training into practice. Give your staff the opportunity and chance to work on their new skills, and assign mentors and coaches to answer questions and provide guidance.

6. Connect All Parts of the Process

The point of creating an annual training plan is to work it into a repeatable cycle that supports overall goals. Here’s a structure that fits many agencies:

connect all parts

Start with the needs assessment or competency assessment to identify gaps to be filled with training.

Then find the areas for improvement and build those onto the CHW’s individual training plan for their job.

That will go into a CHW’s overall professional development plan, which is a chart for that person’s career at your agency.

Every year, check progress against these plans in an annual performance review, identifying areas to focus on for the coming year.

By building structure into your training plan for the year, you’ll get results and be ready for many years to come.