In the world of community health worker training, or any other frontline health worker title, for that matter, it’s never one and done.
It’s important to evaluate the success of your existing program so you can make improvements as time goes by. Not doing so is like cooking a recipe and never checking the seasoning. Making adjustments will keep your training investment successful in the long run.
If you fine-tune your CHW program, it will provide your team with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in their career. Systematic reviews should also reveal that learners have the proper tools for success, such as a solid understanding of core competencies in your area, and specialized topics that suit your community and your CHWs’ job.
How do you begin evaluating a training program?
A needs analysis, or assessment, is an important first step in creating a CHW online or in-person training initiative. Establishing what stakeholders need from a program, and what your trainees need to learn, will help you create a program that has a greater chance of success.
But too many people either skip the step of creating a needs assessment, or they make mistakes. If a training needs assessment is messy, it could set the tone for your entire program, and could leave unsatisfied health workers or wasted funds.
One common mistake is looking too narrowly at your organization when documenting needs. For example, some administrators know they need to address a knowledge gap because of new cancer screening guidelines. But they forget to consider if their in-person training staff is qualified to handle online discussions. They assume that uploading a PDF toolkit to a website will be enough to everyone.
Looking at only one piece of the puzzle will solve exactly one piece.
Set CHW Learning Goals
Hone in on the skills your team needs for a successful community health program and make an action plan with this guide.
Who will benefit from this training?
Start from the top and consider first who will be the top people to benefit from the training. This is probably your CHWs, but it could also be other people who share related duties or who you would like to cross-train in CHW skills.
A good training program will help your target audience develop the skills necessary to perform their job and also advance their career.
Does your training program align with the goals and interests of these audiences? Make sure it’s very clear to learners what type of work they’re training for and how you can use your training program to achieve those goals.
When you’re planning to bring online training to your community health worker staff, minimally start by…
- looking at what your students need
- what your agency, organization or funder needs and
- what kind of technology you need to make it a success.
Likely, there are other factors you’ll need to assess, but you can start here, more or less in this order:
What type of training modules should it include?
Assess what your learners need to know. Do they need cultural communication techniques? Do they lack health literacy skills? Does your state require anything for certification? Start there. You may also have results-based needs, such as addressing a growing population with an influx of volunteer community liaisons. Looking at gaps in learning will help you identify how to address them.
Note: You can ask your students what they want to learn, but proceed down this road with caution. Sometimes, they don’t know what they need and lack the terminology to tell you, or have very little experience with (or love of) online learning.
Determine gaps in your infrastructure.
Assume you’ve identified what your community health worker team needs training for, and then back up and see what weaknesses you see in your infrastructure to make that happen. For example, you might need to hire a new fleet of trainers with skills in online teaching strategies. Or, your grant has reporting requirements, and you’ll need evaluation tools to address them. You also can group stakeholders with your infrastructure because they will also have requirements you’ll need to address, such as the ability to become self-supporting with your new courses.
Decide on the best technology for your needs.
There are several different types of training programs available. These include classroom-based courses, online learning platforms, and self-paced eLearning modules. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.
An online training program usually includes a combination of live webinars and recorded sessions. Webinars are interactive sessions where participants can ask questions and interact with instructors via chat. Recorded sessions allow learners to watch the session at their own pace without having to attend live events. Both webinar and recorded sessions are available 24/7.
Knowing what your needs are for learning and for your infrastructure will help greatly when you analyze what kind of technology will work best for your organization. Then you can begin to decide if you need self-paced learning, you want instructor-led online courses (and what those instructors need), or are looking to build a blended-learning program. When you have a list of digital tools and features you need, you can measure them against providers and vendors that can help address those.
Will the training help your community health worker achieve their goals?
A good training program will provide your team with the skills and knowledge necessary to do their jobs successfully and help you meet your program goals.
It should also help them develop new skills and improve existing ones. If you’re interested in the workforce development of CHWs, an online training program like CHWTraining might be just what they need to make a successful transition into a new field.
Remember that a needs assessment is just the beginning. Look at it as the launching point for a deep investigation into what it will take for your program to succeed. Jumping into something for the sake of it might seem like the fast solution, but you’ll be glad you took the time to look deeply into your requirements before you begin building.