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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.

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.

Everything You Need to Know About CHW Roles, Training, Titles, and Jobs

CHWs, promotores de salud, community health aides, peer educators — have you ever heard these titles and wondered what the difference is?

Those are various names that describe frontline public health workers that specialize in working in communities. Their focus is to help people increase their quality of life, prevent diseases, and manage treatment for existing health conditions, thus preventing complications. For simplicity, this article refers to all these similar roles as community health workers (CHWs).

Knowing what a CHW does can be confusing. That’s why we decided to put together a list of the most commonly asked questions about this workforce. Read on to learn more about what a CHW is, what one does, where they work, and other topics specific to this field.

Frequently Asked Questions About CHW roles, titles, programs, and responsibilities

  1. What is a CHW?
  2. What’s an example of a CHW?
  3. Where do CHWs work?
  4. What are the key skills a CHW needs?
  5. What are the responsibilities of a CHW?
  6. Other common titles for CHWs
  7. What does community health mean?
  8. Is community health worker the same as a community outreach worker?

What is a CHW?

CHW stands for Community Health Worker.  CHWs are frontline healthcare workers who help members of marginalized or underserved communities access the healthcare they need.

CHWs assist individuals in getting access to the healthcare services they need. They also coach clients to make healthy choices in daily life. They advocate for the proper care of their clients and encourage their clients to advocate for themselves. Their goal is to improve health outcomes for communities that may otherwise not get the quality care they need.

Many CHWs work with a multidisciplinary healthcare team or community groups to provide preventive care and health education. They all work together to help community members navigate the healthcare system and navigate systems, covering topics like medical interpretation as needed.

What’s an example of a CHW?

You may think you never heard of CHWs before. While the name may not be familiar, CHWs are likely all around you.

An example of a CHW is the local team promoting preventive care measures such as vaccinations, assisting the elderly in getting proper treatment, or raising awareness about culturally-specific health issues and disease management.

Where do CHWs work?

CHWs help bridge the gap between patients/clients and healthcare providers, so anywhere a patient may need assistance, a CHW may likely be found.

CHWs can work in a medical area or in communities. They may work at health services, including mental health facilities, substance abuse programs, nursing homes, or healthcare clinics. In a community context, they might work in a neighborhood or a faith-based organization.

In either context, they tend to provide support to connect clients or patients with preventive health services such as screenings, educational programs, and community outreach. Or help coordinate care, such as follow-up appointments.

What are the key skills a CHW needs?

A successful CHW career begins with specialized training in Core Competencies. These core competencies include:

  • Advocacy Skills/Capacity Building Skills
  • Care Coordination or Service Coordination and System Navigation
  • Communication Skills
  • Cultural Humility/Cultural Responsiveness
  • Education and Facilitation Skills
  • Evaluation and Research
  • Experience and Knowledge Base
  • Individual and Community Assessment and Direct Services
  • Interpersonal and Relationship-Building Skills
  • Outreach Skills, Methods and Strategies
  • Professional Skills and Conduct

Learn more about CHW Core Competencies training here.

 

What are the responsibilities of a CHW?

A CHW’s responsibilities vary a lot depending on the community they serve. Basic duties include:

  • Facilitate access to healthcare services (including coordinating transit, helping navigate health insurance, offering language services, and other similar tasks)
  • Assist in disease prevention — such as helping make the home a healthy environment for those with chronic illnesses (like asthma), educate their peers about healthy living, and encourage the population to get regular screenings
  • Advocate for the needs of the community they serve — including opening and maintaining communication with local healthcare providers
  • Organize local outreach programs — to raise awareness about the existence of the initiative, making it possible for everyone to access the services they need
  • Collect health data from a population — to report to healthcare officials

Other common titles for CHWs

Community Health Worker is an umbrella term for many frontline public health workers. Depending on their focus, other titles for CHWs include:

  • Promotor de salud, public health worker, lay health worker, outreach worker, outreach specialist
  • Community health advocate, community health representative, community health promoter, community connector, community health outreach worker, community health advisor, community health educator, community care coordinator
  • Peer educator, peer support worker, peer health promoter, lay health educator, lay health advisor, neighborhood health advisor
  • Casework aide, health aide (or community health aide), public health aide, environmental health aide, patient navigator, family support worker

What does community health mean?

Community health is a field of public health that specializes in the health and well-being of entire communities by promoting health initiatives in specific regions. This approach allows the population to receive relevant preventive healthcare depending on their social determinants, their race, and their cultural needs.

According to the CDC, “Working at the community level promotes healthy living, helps prevent chronic diseases, and brings the greatest health benefits to the greatest number of people in need.”

Is Community Health Worker the same as a community outreach worker?

Community Health Workers have many different titles. Depending on where you are, a Community Outreach Worker may be the same as a CHW.

Outreach planning is key in promoting CHW programs and helping communities benefit from the services offered by local organizations. Outreach programs can include engaging with local media (newspapers, TV channels, radio stations, and more) and participating in local events promoting health services.

Much like CHWs, Community outreach workers are the primary link between citizens and nonprofit or government organizations whose goal is to improve the quality of life in the communities they serve. However, Community outreach workers focus mainly on educating the community about the services the organization offers and inviting them to take part.

Photo by Lagos Food Bank from Pexels

Most Popular CHW Training Courses in 2020

By Eliana Ifill

Community health programs were in a “Ready? Set? Sit still!” mode in 2020. While the need for community health workers and promotores (CHWs/Ps) was clear. However, many were sent home to wait until they could head out and help clients again. And in some cases, many more clients than the year before.

Online learning for CHWs/Ps has never been more necessary.

Working from Home

As communities still go in and out of stay-at-home orders and as health agencies and programs rush to hire more CHWs/Ps, CHWTraining has seen a dramatic uptick in people learning from home. Program managers, supervisors, and program coordinators want to make use of their staff’s time while they’re remote.

Remote learning makes sense. It’s a positive thing for health teams to do while building skills that will be useful into the future–and well into each person’s career.

CHWTraining has seen some trends—some surprising, some not—in popular courses and subject areas. Here’s a round-up of what’s been the most popular this year. We also offer what we think it says about training for public and community health teams.

Care Coordination and System Navigation

One of the most important roles of a CHW or care coordinator is to help members of the community access the care they need to sustain a healthy life. Interest in Care Coordination and System Navigation spiked last year. Partly that’s because it’s central to the core competencies of CHWs and promotores, and it also provides essential skills for working with clients who have a new set of needs in a pandemic.

Managers reported a need for skills like:

  • knowing how to navigate health insurance
  • helping service providers collaborate in supporting communities
  • developing and implementing care plans for patients, and
  • connecting patients to the resources they need.

Cultural Competency

The year 2020 was about the coronavirus pandemic, and it was also about racial equality. Many organizations looked at the gaping health inequity in healthcare and decided to do something about it. Agencies made a move toward improving their internal cultural competency and reducing unintended bias.

CHWs often work with under-served groups such as immigrant communities and diverse races. It’s important for them to understand the nuances of cultural differences and help advocate for proper care. This includes such topics as language barriers, cultural sensitivities like religious beliefs, and translating healthy behaviors into culturally appropriate equivalents. A deep understanding of health disparities is also key in the work of CHWs.

Community Outreach and Engagement

The challenges in community engagement with closures and physical distancing has caused many agencies to double-down on their outreach skills. These skills are increasingly important especially when so many men and women have been skipping their regular preventative care screenings. Now is also a good time to know more about how to provide health education about vaccinations.

Successful CHW programs need to reach the population they serve. Community outreach and engagement means bringing the programs and services to the community. It also means ensuring that people understand how the programs and services can make their lives better.

Managers were looking for ways to build strong outreach strategies in their teams. These strategies include:

  • multiple touch points such as traditional media (newspapers, TV stations, and more),
  • many more phone calls than before, and
  • online platforms such as social media.

Breast Cancer Screening

Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women in the US, second only to skin cancer. Scientific advances in genetics and genomics have revolutionized the way breast cancer is detected and treated. It’s more important now than ever to help at-risk women–especially those who have limited access to care–to understand their risk and take steps to prevent this disease.

However, breast cancer screening tests, such as mammograms, ultrasounds, and MRIs, were put on hold as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some estimates report reductions in screenings of more than 90%.

In 2020, CHW program managers wanted education in how to educate women about the benefits of routine screenings. They also wanted to help clients understand when, how and what type of testing they require based on family history, medical history, age, and other determinants. A focus on accessing the care they need for successful prevention and/or treatment was in high demand.

CHWTraining Opens New Course on Breast Cancer Screening for 2020

 

Cervical Cancer and HPV

Screenings for cervical cancer and HPV vaccinations were also dramatically reduced in 2020. Many programs increased outreach in this area.

CHWTraining saw a jump in interest of all kinds of cervical cancer information, like symptoms, risk factors, screening tests, diagnosis, and treatment, and how CHWs can help prevent this disease.

Spreading basic information such as that cervical cancer is highly preventable in most developed nations helps. Programs also wanted to know how to reach people who live in rural areas. Likewise reaching those with a low socioeconomic background, including women of color.

CHWTraining Adds “Cervical Cancer and HPV” to its Chronic Illness Online Course Library

Behavioral Health

Mental health became a daily issue for millions in 2020 in a web of illness, unemployment, childcare, isolation and imminent health risks, food and housing insecurity, domestic abuse and more. Add daily stressors and the results are clear: Depression and anxiety are skyrocketing.

Last year was a big one for courses related to behavioral health, including depression, anxiety, substance use, and mental illness. Enrollment in courses where CHWs could learn to identify risk factors, make referrals, and provide support boomed as a valuable skill to help communities thrive in the midst of uncertainty.

Promoting Healthy Lifestyles

One of the most important things CHWs can do is encourage community members to prevent disease. This can be achieved by educating peers on habits such as eating well, physical activity, preventative care, and behavioral health.

Some of the most popular courses of the year had to do with HEAL programs and other ways of Promoting Healthy Lifestyles. The focus was on giving community members could have an understanding of the concepts behind implementing positive changes and sustaining a healthy life.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects nearly a third of adults in the US. What’s worse, suffering from high blood pressure predisposes patients to stroke, heart disease, and other complications.

Knowing that people with hypertension are at a risk of a more serious outcome of COVID sent more programs to essential training in this area. Here’s a checklist of the best educational skills for a heart healthy program.

With lifestyle modifications and the right care, high blood pressure is preventable. It can even be reversed with proper care, including nutrition, adequate management with medication, and physical activity. CHWs are essential in helping patients navigate this condition to improve their health outcomes and prevent serious complications later on.

Diabetes and Prediabetes

Community health programs wanted foundational training in diabetes last year–as every year. Diabetes is a growing concern. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of people with diabetes in the US went from four million to over 29 million–a 700% increase.

Programs wanted online learning in understanding this condition and patients’ needs so they’re better equipped to help connect them to the best resources.

Like hypertension, people with diabetes are at a higher risk of poor health outcomes with the coronavirus. And many more people are at risk.

It’s common for early stages of diabetes to go undetected. But with the right help, patients can lead healthy, normal lives with this condition.

Communication Skills

Communication Skills is always one of the top courses at CHWTraining. It’s a core competency because CHWs are in contact with lots of people in different roles. Not to mention patients themselves.

It’s important to develop the right skills to effectively communicate with healthcare workers, program coordinators, insurance agents, and more. This training helps learners advocate for patients and clients to receive the assistance they need.

The most in-demand communication skills include:

  • active listening,
  • using layman’s terms (including for describing medical terms),
  • building rapport,
  • nonverbal communication,
  • resolving and avoiding conflict,
  • and being able to understand and work within culturally diverse communities.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

 

Download Your CHW Training Resource and Template Bundle

Make training your CHW team easier and work more effectively with these templates and resources. From building your program to free training resources, there’s something here that you can use right now.

Your bundle includes:

Build a CHW Program

  • Core competencies To Start Your CHW Program: A complete list of the basic training requirements every CHW needs for a successful career.
  • Top 5 Ways to Assess CHW Skills and Core Competencies: A mixed approach to assessing your team can give you the truest sense of how your CHWs are performing in their jobs. Learn the top 5 ways to measure your CHWs’ core skills.
  • Guide to Setting CHW Learning Goals: Define a clear career path as a Community Health Worker, promotor de salud, health aid, peer educator and more.
  • Virtual Training Planner Template: Stay on track as you develop or select virtual training materials that your learners and partners will love.
  • Set CHW training goals: Hone in on the skills you need to work as a CHW and make an action plan with this guide.

Maintain Your CHW Program

  • Heart Health Training Checklist: Essential cardiovascular health skills for your team.

Community Health Resources

  • Coronavirus for CHWs Guide: A curated and updated list of useful information for your team.
  • Improve Women’s Health Guide: Target these 10 areas to improve women’s health.

Plus, you’ll receive weekly email updates packed with more actionable training advice and community health topics. Sign up now and steer your team into a CHW career with CHWTraining.