CHW Training for Health Navigators, Promotores, and Other Titles

Professional development for community health workers (CHWs) is more useful and available than ever before. Health and community agencies are looking for ways to provide standardized and rigorous skill-building for their teams.

Teams of CHWs are growing all around the US. In fact, overall employment of health educators and community health workers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2019 to 2029.

But what if your team is similar to CHWs, but not exactly CHWs? How does professional health training work for them? Is CHW training a one-size-fits-all plan?

The short answer is probably. The long answer is, probably, but with some tweaking.

A successful CHW training strategy requires defined goals and guidelines. These come from management and from any state or employer requirements. But many healthcare workers have the same roles as community health workers with varying titles. Learn more about what it takes to train your team as CHWs here.

So applying training–core competency or health-specific–to any community health team is likely to be effective. It’ll be even more effective if you have some internal flexibility to decide what is right for each employee.

Community Health Worker Job Titles

People who work as CHWs and have a CHW certification know exactly what they do and how they’re supposed to do their job. They and their employers have a clear understanding of the best training.

But there are dozens of other job titles that also fit CHW. In fact, many surveys reveal that most people who are CHWs don’t have the official title of “community health worker.”

You might hear—or employ—people with these titles, who have participated in courses from CHWTraining:

  • Behavioral health specialist
  • Care coordinator
  • Case worker
  • Clinical coordinator
  • Community advocate
  • Community health advisor
  • Community health representative
  • Community health specialist
  • Family navigator
  • Health navigator
  • Health promoter
  • Lay health advisor
  • Outreach specialist
  • Peer educator
  • Promotor(a) de salud
  • Public health associated
  • Supported living staff

And many more. You can read more about other CHW titles and roles here.

These might be official titles, but they might not. Some employees refer to themselves as a CHW or other title if it’s more common in their community.

Consider using a consistent job title of “community health worker” to clarify the position internally and in the community, if possible. And make sure to include the term “CHW” in the job description, so it’s easy to that’s what you’re looking for.

How Are CHWs Different from Other Health Workers?

Many of the titles used for CHWs are actually job functions, which causes confusion. “Health coach,” for example, can be something that many people do, from a dietitian to an RN. And even a community volunteer.

CHWs are unique because they share a life experience with the people in the communities where they work. They often live alongside their clients, or they’re closely related in another way, such as language or background.

Training Your Health Worker Staff as CHWs

Even though the job title CHW is unique, people with different titles can do the same function. And a much wider team than just CHWs and health promoters can benefit from being trained as or alongside CHWs.

Cross-training means spreading knowledge in a team by creating a baseline education among everyone. But it can also be a wider and more impactful program in healthcare agencies if all employees are cross-trained as CHWs. Most CHW training programs are accessible, easy to integrate with existing schedules, and applicable to any health staff.

Using core competency cross-training on an entire healthcare team can strengthen teams, improve client and patient care, and increase team efficiency.

How to Train Your Staff as CHWs

Jumpstart your next CHW training initiative right away. Access this informative session on how to train your staff as CHWs.

 

CHW Core Competency Training

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

These Are the New Job Skills CHWs Need Right Now

Everyone’s job is different nowadays. This means community health workers need an updated list of job skills. Everything you thought you knew about jobs for any kind of health worker is up for re-analyzing. That includes how people learn (remotely) to what they learn (cultural competency) and where they use those skills (phone vs. someone’s kitchen).

The future of healthcare focused on community members is still changing. How this workforce will look in years to come is still unclear. What is clear is that the skills CHWs, promotores, case managers, and others need to evolve too.

What those jobs look like already demands a new and improved batch of competencies that have been adapted to this world’s structure. These new skills will make it easier for community-focused healthcare to meet virtually. They will incorporate ways of managing stress and sharing those techniques with clients. They’ll include more ways to stretch care to people who have worse health outcomes than the people around them.

Whatever the new “normal” will be, here’s what’s clear about the new era of being a CHW.

New Job Skills for CHWs

Remote Learning Skills

“Remote” is a term that has new meaning for everyone. Now, it’s the way we define being together and apart at the same time.

The definition of being together remotely now includes learning together online. This is a given for anyone who wants to enter the CHW workforce and needs to build up core skills or for managers who need for their staff to adapt. Employees have a host of options for CHW core competencies that they can pick up from home or in their own time at work.

Learning remotely includes a variety of sub-skills that make it easier to succeed. These skills are also fundamental to a career in public health and working with clients.

  • Effective listening
  • Communication skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Resilience

System Navigation and Care Coordination

CHWs need to double-down on learning how develop and improve care coordination and system navigation skills to support clients in complex health environments.

Care coordination is an effective and significant part of high-quality and safe healthcare delivery. It is a critical skill that allows agencies to combine and share information among teams, organizations, and facilities whose services your client needs. This skill, paired with system navigation, is essential to coordinate care among many providers and agencies. It’s also a natural partner with building outreach skills.

These days, more clients are likely to fall into the definition of having complex health conditions. Agencies need to target clients and patients who are at the highest risk of serious illness and mortality if they get COVID-19. Identifying which clients have chronic illnesses or who are older is a care coordination activity that’s vital for CHWs.

Cultural Competency

Understanding the ways people interact with others with respect, empathy and curiosity has always been a cornerstone of what a CHW does. The last two years have revealed to everyone across the world the concept of cross-cultural competency and how that can affect a person’s wellbeing.

Training in cultural competency (for CHWs or any other member of a healthcare team) includes information on the various cultural groups learners may encounter in their work and how to recognize and demonstrate understanding of cultural differences. Training should introduce CLAS standards and provide practical tips on communication techniques, recognizing and working against stereotypes, and building trust among all people.

Here are key objectives for cultural competency training:

  • Understand the role culture plays in a person’s health, including behaviors, language, customs, beliefs, and perspectives
  • Learn culturally appropriate and respectful ways of communicating, including effective listening
  • Use empathy to connect with people who come from various backgrounds
  • Deliver health care services that meet the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of patients to avoid health disparities
  • Build relationships with partners and colleagues to deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate services
  • Increase such skills as emotional intelligence and critical thinking

Chronic Illness or Health-Specific Focus

Knowing the basics is just a beginning for CHWs. Once they have foundational training, they should move on to a specialization in a chronic illness or health-specific focus. People who utilize ERs the most often frequently have chronic illnesses, such as asthma or high blood pressure (hypertension).

Including training in chronic disease or other health area, such as oral health, can have a huge impact.

For example, a CHW’s impact on women with breast or cervical cancer or at high risk is broad. CHWs have a knack for making paths through hard-to-reach areas and populations. They’re powerful allies in the battle against breast cancer, especially in underserved communities, where they live, work, or understand deeply.

They can …

  • connect people directly with providers for treatment or screening,
  • give clients and patients resources about disease management,
  • bust myths about breast cancer (no, mammograms don’t cause cancer) and provide other education about lowering risk,
  • advise on health insurance and financial assistance, and
  • be there just to listen and provide social support.

Organizational Skills

Organizational skills are always important for the sometimes chaotic job of CHW. But they’re especially important now when CHWs are tasked with building up all the skills previously listed. Being able to prioritize, manage time, work well with a multidisciplinary team, and work with documentation systems are necessary.

When CHWs are organized, they can do their job in a timely, effective, and culturally competent manner.

One important sub-skill is establishing boundaries with clients and coworkers now that so many people are working from home. Some tips for this:

  • Create a work-only zone. This could be a home office, a table that’s folded and put away at the end of the day, or another area of the house that a staffer can leave when work is over.
  • Take control of a work schedule. This helps reinforce the work-only zone. This also means creating a schedule that allows for meetings with a multidisciplinary team, client follow-ups, and best working times.
  • Improve communication skills. Communicating effectively with teammates and staff will make remote working go that much more smoothly.

Self-care

Giving priority to self-care is now more important than ever—for managers, CHWs and clients.

Managers and supervisors need to prioritize their own self-care so they can be the reliable leaders their staff need. CHWs need to set limits and find ways to release so they don’t face burnout. Clients likely have multiple stressors that can combine to make all their illnesses worse and lower their immune systems.

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.

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.

Ongoing Learning

Learning is a continuum for CHWs and supervisors, and building these new skills are ongoing, even when the pandemic is over. Keep these skills sharp, and you’ll have happier staff who can improve health outcomes now and on into the future.

Setting CHW Learning Goals

By Eliana Ifill

The career path that leads to being a community health worker (CHW) or promotor de salud is one full of growth opportunities, hands-on experience, and human interaction. As a CHW, you have the chance to improve your community members’ well-being every day and help them across the most challenging stumbling blocks in their lives.

But that’s not all there is to it.

Aspects like bureaucracy, unclear scopes of practice, and the complicated nature of health care–especially for marginalized communities–leave many CHWs feeling overloaded and like it’s hard too to set professional development and learning goals.

However, setting professional goals is the best way to build skills for the job you have and start to gain experience for advancing on a career path.

The first step in being a CHW is to complete core competencies training—this is often required from the state where you live. Then, build on to that solid base with specialized training that fits the needs of your community or what you want to do. Meet with your supervisor regularly, maybe every three months or twice a year, to discuss these options and get their support.

Continuous education and training will help you benefit your career and also help the people you work with. Read on for more ideas about setting your own learning goals.

5 Things To Keep in Mind When Setting Your CHW Learning Goals

  1. What areas in your community need the most support?
  2. What certificates or training does your state require for CHW programs?
  3. What are your professional goals?
  4. How are you going to measure your CHW learning goals?
  5. What support systems do you have in place?

 

1.     What areas in your community need the most support?

Community health workers and promotores de salud work closely with underserved communities, families with little to no access to basic health care. As a CHW, you have the opportunity to address the unique challenges your community is facing and help them overcome these barriers.

When setting your CHW learning goals, keep in mind:

  • medical conditions of clients
  • requirements of your employer
  • specific needs of those in your community.

This might include a chronic illness that’s a problem where you live, such as diabetes or heart disease. Or it might include more general skills such as advocacy, help navigating health insurance, transportation, or language services.

2.     What certificates or training does your state require for CHW programs?

While not all states have legislation in place for CHW programs, it’s important to check with your local authorities whether you need official certifications, hands-on experience (many programs require a number of supervised hours in the field), or any other requirement as you start your CHW career.

Not sure where to start? Find out what the CHW certification requirements in your state.

3.     What are your professional goals?

Whether you’re looking at a long-term career as a CHW or see this as a steppingstone, your professional goals should shape your choices from early on.

If you’re considering a career in public health, medicine, or social services, it’s smart to explore your local opportunities and connect with other professionals in positions similar to what you’re after. Look at some of the most important job skills to build a CHW career path.

4.     How are you going to measure your CHW learning goals?

Once you’ve more or less defined your aspirations as a CHW, it’s time to clearly outline your goals and create an action plan.

For goal setting, you can use a system like SMART goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based (or time-bound).

An example of a SMART CHW learning goal is:

Contact my local authority to request the certification requirements before registration for the Core Competencies course closes for this quarter.

5.     What support systems do you have in place?

While working on the field can be extremely rewarding, you’ll likely face many challenges as a CHW, both in witnessing struggle firsthand and navigating bureaucracy and injustice day in and day out.

Developing healthy habits and a strong support system, along with clear boundaries, is key to protect your own well-being and those closest to you. Take this quiz to see if you might be burned out.