Audience: 500 community health workers, advocates, case managers per year
Training requirements: core skills, behavioral health, asthma, custom curriculum
The Office of Healthy Communities in the Washington State Department of Health faced a daunting task: create a program from scratch to train up to 500 community health workers a year across the state to meet recommendations from the Affordable Care Act and the Centers for Disease Control.
They met the challenge and dramatically expanded the state’s workforce with a flexible training program that combines traditional on-site sessions with a progressive online learning management system. Healthy Communities now has a growing network of more than 1000 health workers across the state--including in hard-to-access rural areas--and shares training with over 100 agencies.
Thanks to the office’s work with CHWTraining’s parent company Talance, no other state-sponsored training system in the nation has reached this many community health workers and their allies with a standardized training curriculum.
"This online learning solution from Talance was a logical choice for addressing some of our challenges," said Debbie Spink, instructor for the Office of Healthy Communities. "E-learning assures all students receive consistent up-to-date quality information and skill building. Students love the freedom it gives them to participate when their schedule permits."
Large scale training for a spread-out workforce
Washington's Office of Healthy Communities (OHC) administrators and staff were challenged with starting a brand new program that could provide statewide training for community health workers. They knew that the potential audience was diverse, widely dispersed, and inconsistently trained--any existing education had been provided solely by employers and was not applicable to everyone. Some participants lived in cities and some in the most rural areas of the state; all had to navigate busy work schedules to earn 30 hours of continuing education in a community health worker training program spread out over eight weeks. OHC administrators wanted to accommodate the varying needs of working adults with a more flexible learning system.
Success with blended learning
After learning about their success with similar state-run initiatives, Washington chose Talance.
The Office of Healthy Communities turned to an online curriculum developed in 2010 by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, built with e-learning development firm Talance, Inc. The program was created to increase the capacity for professional development of community health workers through online courses. The aim was for participants from all around Massachusetts to attend training that would show them how to help clients “follow the doctor’s orders” and take charge of their health, reducing the need for additional care. The best solution for training individuals from all around the state, while minimizing out-of-office time, was to move the bulk of the curriculum online.
It was a solution that fit the similar needs of Washington, so in October 2012, the organization began implementing their own version of the program. As an experienced instructor in the Office of Healthy Communities, Debbie Spink has witnessed first-hand how the e-learning solution provided by Talance helped them improve and expand their workforce. It increased the number of participants trained, creating networking opportunities offline and online after the course completion, and provided a structure for a growing catalog of health-related training that improves the management of chronic conditions.
"This online learning solution from Talance was a logical choice for addressing some of our challenges," she said. "E-learning assures all students receive consistent up-to-date quality information and skill building. Students love the freedom it gives them to participate when their schedule permits."
An Expanding and Customized Curriculum
The Office of Healthy Communities put together the best elements of in-person training with the best of online training to implement a blended learning model. OHC allows its network of facilitators around Washington to supplement a brief live session with an in-depth online course containing assessments, assignment tools, and collaboration.
The training model is efficient, lean, and scalable, allowing it to meet funding variables and limitations. It makes training fast and easy, which can be difficult in Washington. It's a large state with rural pockets not easily accessible for traditional in-person learning programs.
"E-learning allows us to reach remote areas of the state to teach community health workers. Staff only need to stay one day in each location thus lowering the cost of delivering the training significantly," says Ms. Spink. "We need the support of the online curriculum. It would be cost prohibitive to offer this training only in-person."
Each quarter, approximately 150 community health workers kick off the program by spending one day with instructors who present important and timely information regarding health care in the state, covering such topics as communication skills, cultural competency, and community health worker roles and boundaries.
Since it launched in 2012, OHC has used Talance's managed course hosting to offer community health worker courses four times a year to all seven regions of the state. In addition, eight short health-specific courses are open to all graduates. The program's flexibility has allowed training for a large number of workers in response to healthcare reform. "We can schedule trainings as many times as we want, because the e-learning system allows us to train as many participants as we want," Ms. Spink says.