must-have CHW skills

Must-have CHW Skills for Your Next Hire

The most successful people who work in community health are those with solid knowledge of communities. If you’re looking to hire or want a job as a community health worker (CHW), community health representative (CHR), promotor, or other similar jobs, these are specific skills that will help make the right match.

Preparing to hire a CHW

If you’re looking to hire a CHW, note these skills in your job notice so you can look for them among applicants. 

If you’re looking to hire a CHW, your applicants should complete a training program. They won’t need a license, but some states require CHWs to be certified. Read about certification requirements in various states here. Some employers require CHWs to have a high school diploma or even a bachelor’s degree. They’ll have to complete on-the-job training as well.

CHW Core Competencies

Start with the CHW core skills or competencies when looking at your next hire. CHWs who have completed training in the 13 competencies have a baseline knowledge that will equip them to do their job.

Interpersonal skills

A lot of the work CHWs do is based on trust and mutual understanding. For CHWs, establishing trust with the people and communities they serve is key in a successful program. 

Part of these relationships depends on the CHW’s ability to accept others and their situations and being open-minded. 

CHWs also need to create a safe environment for patients to speak freely about their needs. For this, skills such as Motivational Interviewing and active listening can prove effective.

Communication skills

As advocates for their community, CHWs are the liaison between institutions and community members. Often in stressful environments and risk situations. To resolve and avoid conflict, strong communication is key. 

CHWs also work with diverse communities, so cultural competence and empathetic communication are crucial in addressing these differences.

Language skills

Especially for immigrants and other minorities, language skills are a must. A CHW that speaks the population’s mother tongue can help translate and explain medical terms, risks, and more — making it easier for patients to understand their conditions and what they need to do to address any issues.

Outreach skills

Access to healthcare and improving health outcomes start with raising awareness among the population. A large part of the CHW’s job is educating the population on health risks, lifestyle changes, risk factors, and their rights when it comes to services available.

CHWs are also in close contact with organizations, clinics, hospitals, care providers, family members, and beyond. 

Furthermore, as advocates, they need to be able to speak up and represent their clients as needed to get the access and resources they need.

Professional skills and conduct

It’s common for anyone dealing with insurance, government agencies, and similar organizations to face a lot of red tape. A CHW needs the skills and in-depth knowledge to navigate ethical and legal obligations when it comes to patient care, especially as it relates to boundaries, safety, and privacy concerns.

A thorough understanding of agency rules, local and state guidelines, and laws like HIPPA are key in any CHW’s toolkit to handling legal and ethical challenges on the job.

Soft skills

Community Health Workers come in contact with dozens or hundreds of people on the job. Whether it’s patients, caregivers, colleagues, or higher-ups, soft skills such as empathy, emotional resilience, adaptability, and the ability to work in a team within challenging environments are traits that go far in a successful career as a CHW.

Ready for your next hire?