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Top 10 Articles in 2020 – Career Development, Core Competencies, Outreach Skills Roles of CHWs, and More

CHWs have the power to bring health care to underserved communities nationwide. As a CHW, your peers rely on you to get access to the help they need, the resources to improve their life quality, and the tools to improve their health outcomes.

Whether you’re looking to start your career as a CHW or are part of an established program, at CHWTraining we’ve collected readers’ favorite pieces of 2020 to help you serve your community:

Community Engagement the Right Way with Outreach Skills Improving your community’s health begins with outreach. After all, they need to know that you’re available to help. Learn the four key steps to safe community outreach – even during COVID.

3 Powerful Communication Skills That Build Rapport The main difference between a CHW and other healthcare professionals is their ability to connect with patients on a deeper level. As a CHW, you can have a positive impact on your community by establishing rapport with the help of these 3 powerful communication skills.

Top CHW Conferences of 2020 Looking to learn more about CHWs and their key role in public health? It’s not too late! Sign up for the top 2020 CHW conferences on-demand.

Roles and Responsibilities of a CHW Career [Free Event] Curious about how to start a CHW career and what it means to bring CHWs to your organization? Check out this webinar on-demand to learn exactly what it means to be a CHW (or to hire one!).

Top 5 Ways To Assess CHW Skills and Core Competencies Use this article as a resources guide to assess your new and existing CHWs and plan your CHW training in 2021.

12 Skills To Build a CHW Career Interested in becoming a CHW or planning for a long-term career in public health? Find the top health and development skills and core competencies you need to train for a successful CHW career path.

The Definitive Guide to the Coronavirus for CHWs Stay safe, learn to navigate COVID uncertainty and put your patients at ease with this comprehensive COVID guide (updated in December 2020).

Your Agency Needs Training for Food Insecurity Did you know that an estimated 1 in 9 Americans struggle with food insecurity at some point in the year? Food insecurity is one of the leading causes of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and obesity. Learn about what food insecurity means, how COVID has made it worse, and what your agency can do to help fight it in 2021.

9 Essential Skills for a Food Insecurity Screening Program Find out what skills your team needs to help communities fight off food insecurity through the pandemic and beyond.

3 Steps To Advance a CHW Career Secure a long, successful career as a Community Health Worker or advance into other roles within the public health system with these simple steps.

Photo by Johen Redman on Unsplash

 

Community Health Worker Career Paths: How to Hire and Support Your Team

As your team of community health workers (CHWs) scales, it’s important to understand how the field will grow into the future so you can create a community health worker career path for your staff.

The CHW job title is relatively new in the US compared with other job titles, such as care coordinators, case managers, or even promotores. A clear career ladder can be hard to see with new job positions like this. Plus, the CHW job has a high burnout rate, so many people who have been working in the job opt to move into a less demanding position, sometimes in healthcare and sometimes not.

Read Now: CHW Training – Building a Career Path [Resource Guide]

CHWs will move on to new positions, some will get promoted into new jobs, and new people will want to enter the field and join your team. It’s helpful for agencies like yours to understand where and how to recruit or train for community health services careers. It’s also important to know how to encourage career growth along a rewarding path for employees who are more experienced in the field.

As need for this role keeps growing, CHWs can not only increase the health knowledge of their community members but also increase their own reach to more people and other job opportunities.

CHW Core Competencies Resource Guide

Creating a CHW Career Foundation

CHWs, as those in any field, need certain background experiences, skills, and knowledge to be successful. Some of these are soft skills that make a person well-suited to the job and some are hard skills that are part of a CHW core competencies program.

These are some of the skills you might review as a hiring managers or CHW supervisor:

Soft Skills for Community Health Workers

  • Being friendly and open
  • Having empathy
  • Active-listening skills
  • Respect and non-judgmental attitudes
  • Good verbal communication
  • Sensitive to challenging experiences

Hard Skills (Core Competencies) for Community Health Workers

  • 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

CHWs are employed in every state of the US (except South Dakota, for which no data is available), according to the BLS. Each state has independent job requirements, which vary from college degrees that take multiple years to complete to on-the-job training. Some states require certification, and some employers require certificates of completion to show completed training requirements. You can read more about requirements where you are to get a feel for how these core competencies change.

Some people favor jobs more because of their personal attributes. Others look for ways to gather core skills and then build on to them to earn a professional specialty. Managers like you should think about who the individual is and what their tendency is when you’re hiring and creating a career path at your agency.

Below, read some CHW job progressions, specific roles, responsibilities, and it all fits into a CHW career path.

How Can You Provide a CHW Career Path?

Creating a career path for your CHWs helps you recruit qualified workers and also helps you hold on to them when they decide they’d like to expand from their entry role. This will prevent them from being hired away by a new organization or out of your department.

One of the best ways that you can grow your career in customer service is by understanding the different roles that are out there and developing skills that align with them. Here’s an example of the most common positions you’ll find along a customer service role progression:

CHW Career Growth
Community Health Worker Career Path

 

Entry-Level: CHW, Promotores, or CHRs

CHWs are on the front line, working directly with clients or patients and responding to their needs. Training requirements depend on individual employers and state requirements, but it usually takes around two years to be a certified CHW.

A person’s decision to stay in a CHW role doesn’t need to be short-term. You can encourage your CHWs to enter as a CHW and stay a CHW for many years. Make sure stakeholders have adequate funding that builds a long-lasting program.

Why might CHWs decide to stay a CHW?

  • They have meaningful relationships with their clients
  • They’ve invested in and developed a deep understanding of the community and resources
  • They’re included in programs that they help build, launch and maintain
  • You offer recognition for achievements
  • You supply bonuses and pay increases to make sure CHWs feel rewarded.

Mid-Level: Health Advocates, Care Coordinators, CNAs, Health Educators

The next step require some specialization or extra training. They still work one-on-one with clients and patients, but they may have some additional subject-matter expertise that helps them handle more specific patient requirements or work in more clinical settings.

CHWs can move into a role with more specialization. Health advocates, care coordinators, case managers and CNAs who’ve been trained as CHWs work better with an organization and patients to find and deliver care.

Managerial: CHW Supervisors, Managers, Social Workers, Nurses

These mid-level or managerial positions serve as team leads in an agency. They supervise CHWs as well as work with their own clients or patients. However, more of their working day is put toward administration and working with a larger multi-disciplinary team.

Some CHWs will take a job with more leadership potential where they offer training, mentorship, and advice to their peers. A pathway might look like this:

  1. Entry-level CHW: works with patients
  2. Senior CHW: works with patients, mentors new hires
  3. CHW Supervisor: works with staff, hires, works closely with partners

A CHW from there may grow to be someone with less direct content with clients and patients and more program or team management.

Heart Health Training Checklist: Does Your Team Have These Skills? [Checklist]

Heart disease is responsible for the most deaths of men, women, and people in most racial and ethnic groups around the US. People with heart conditions, such as hypertension or cardiovascular disease, have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

[Download Now: Heart Health Training Checklist]

Having a healthy heart is more important now than ever before. Luckily, people can protect themselves from heart disease and stroke in many ways. As a result, they can both reduce their risk and manage heart disease by making lifestyle changes like eating healthfully and staying physically active.

That’s why health promoters–such as community health workers, promotores (CHW/Ps), or similar job titles, are so important to healthcare agencies. They can use patient education and community outreach to improve health outcomes and avoid emergency rooms (ERs).

Heart Disease and Stroke Training for Community Health Teams

Training your team in heart health makes sense. CHW/Ps with the right skills can guide patients and clients toward preventing heart disease and stroke.

This means making sure your employees or volunteers are equipped to work directly with clients and patients to provide heart health education, find motivation for change, connect people with local resources and providers, and help to set, accomplish and maintain goals.

Some of these skills are covered in standard CHW core competencies training, but a more focused approach on cardiovascular health pays off.

Heart Health Checklist

 

Organizing Onboarding Programs

Every organization that serious about improving cardiovascular health in the community needs a training checklist to guide them when hiring new people. Making sure each hire has essential heart health training sets the tone their experience at your agency. Be organized about training at the beginning of the hiring process, or when educating an existing team to have community health skills. That way, your team perform better and make a bigger impact at work.

Some agencies train staff members by on-the-job training only. That process is certainly useful and should be part of a comprehensive training program. However, one-dimensional training leaves out a comprehensive foundation of knowledge.

Teams who learn the basics first can make better decisions and take smarter actions when they’re working with clients. They also stand to be better understood by a multidisciplinary team as part of a formal education plan.

Heart Health Training Checklist

 

Using a checklist makes the evaluation process simpler. So, we’ve created a Heart Health Training Checklist for you to download for free.

You can use this checklist to:

  1. Assess the skills of potential and new staff
  2. Evaluate the training needs of existing staff
  3. Help staff understand what they need to know in order to do their job
  4. Decide what training capacity you have internally vs. what you need to acquire from a vendor

When you use the checklist, add when the training was completed and also the date when training needs to be renewed—usually every year. Also include where the team member was trained and also an official sign-off, possibly by a director or HR manager. HR departments sometimes require a certificate of completion, so make sure your employee hands that over when they’re done.

Adapting Training to Various Teams

This checklist works for most teams that work in the role of a CHW. Here are some ideas for customizing it for different community-health oriented teams.

For Community Health Representative (CHR) Teams

  • Health disparities and social determinants of health
  • Basic anatomy/physiology
  • Community disease profiles
  • Emergency patient care

For Peer Support Specialists or Recovery Coaches

Add training in…

  • Behavioral health
  • Comorbidities and co-occurring conditions
  • Administering Naloxone

For Care Coordination Teams

Add training in…

  • Conducting community needs assessments
  • Documentation skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Service navigation
  • Telehealth

For Family Navigators

Add training in…

  • Conducting community needs assessments
  • Service navigation
  • Health disparities and social determinants of health

10 skills CHWs can learn right now—without leaving the couch

 

Community Health Worker Core Competencies: Level up Your Community Initiative with CHWTraining

CHWs are the frontline health workers assisting those who need it most. With effective training, your team can help bring health to underserved communities.

Individuals in underserved populations often struggle to access the medical care needed to live a long, healthy life. Issues like cultural stigma, language barriers, and bureaucracy make health care difficult or impossible to access for many marginalized communities.

Especially in remote locations or those with little to no access to healthcare, such as impoverished towns and international borders, Community Health Workers provide much-needed relief to over-burdened healthcare systems, assist in the care, and offer personal support to patients and their families as community members deal with unique health challenges.

In the US, CHWs often work with immigrant communities, women at risk of (or experiencing) abuse, families at or below the poverty line, and aging adults who require attention but not necessarily 24/7 medical assistance.

Community Health Workers Make Health Care And Disease Prevention Accessible To Communities

While CHW regulations vary across states, most programs require basic career skills and core competencies to work as a Community Health Worker, promotor de salud, or health advocate with registered organizations.

Besides hands-on experience in the field, professional CHW training is advised and should cover core competencies like:

  • Advocating for patients’ needs
  • Helping patients and families get the care they need
  • Bridging the gap between patients and their caretakers
  • Cultural nuances such as navigating language barriers and cultural stigma
  • Raising awareness about health and disease prevention
  • Identifying the needs of patients and populations
  • Assessing needs and opportunities in underserved communities
  • Engaging with individuals and organizations alike
  • Planning and implementing community events

Does your team feel prepared to take on these responsibilities?

Update Your Team’s Core Skills Training With CHWTraining’s Core CHW Competencies Course

A successful CHW program starts by ensuring your staff has a solid foundation to provide the much-needed care to patients and their loved ones. And the basic legal requirements to meet your state’s certification criteria.

Related: Curious about your state requirements? Core Competencies To Start Your CHW Program

At CHWTraining, we’re excited to announce the launch of a limited enrollment program: CHW Core Competencies, now with a Certificate of Completion.

The newly updated CHW Core Competencies course will help you shape your career, agency, and community. It covers all the basics you’ll need to promote support community members no matter where you live.

Continue your career path by following with CHW Core Competencies II. Building an effective foundation will expand your capabilities to improve health outcomes and connect clients to care.

Don’t miss out. Register now and get access to:

  • CHW Core Competencies – Foundations Curriculum (40 hours online instruction)
  • Job Growth Toolkit
    • Goal-setting worksheet
    • CHW Requirements by State
    • Professional templates (including a cover letter and resume)
  • Core Competencies Toolkit
    • Scope of Practice Template
    • Bonus case studies
    • Resources

 

 

3 Steps To Advance a CHW Career

A community health worker (CHW) job is especially rewarding and it is a critical piece of a healthcare team.

It’s also a good option for a career. There are more jobs than ever in this field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says “overall employment of health educators and community health workers is projected to grow 13% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.”

→ Enroll Now: CHW Core Competencies Online Training [Certificate]

Many CHWs use their position as a career advancement opportunity that leads to other areas of healthcare. They use a solid foundation in core skills as a stepping stone to jobs up the career ladder. You can use your experience to move into leadership roles, administrators, and more.

You’ll create your own path for advancement based on the skills you start with and where you want to go. However, here’s a rough step-by-step guide that can show you what to think about and in what order as you think about moving up the CHW career ladder.

Step 1: Attend a CHW training program

The first step is to improve that baseline education with the most essential core skills training for a CHW career. Training programs usually cover core competencies, such as communication or outreach skills. They also cover some information about health-specific topics, such as heart disease, or cultural competency. Here are the 13 most common core competencies for most employers and programs.

Step 2: Get certified

CHWs are employed in every state of the US (except South Dakota, for which no data is available), according to the BLS. Each state has independent job requirements, which vary from college degrees that take multiple years to complete to on-the-job training. Some states require certification, and some employers require certificates of completion to show successful training.

Here are some requirements from a handful of different states.

 

Step 3: Earn some on-the-job experience

CHWs almost always need to do some on-the-job training. Some programs, especially some very good state-sponsored programs, include this apprenticeship period as part of the program. Some employers provide it as part of being hired.

Step 4: Specialize

As a CHW, you can specialize in almost any area of medicine, from autism spectrum disorder to Alzheimer’s to asthma. You can work in a variety of settings, such as communities, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, doctor’s offices or schools, and each of these are in their own way a specialization.

These specializations are helpful in any CHW job, but they can also lay the groundwork to these kinds of positions:

  • Certified diabetes educator
  • Diabetes educator
  • Health educator
  • Certified drug & alcohol counselor

Step 5: Boost your training

CHWs often, but not always, need a high school diploma to get a job. If you’ve already entered a CHW job without a high school diploma or equivalent, this stage is a good time to get one.

Many CHW positions also require you to have a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential or CPR/first aid certification. If you get these, they can open many more opportunities.

Step 6: Move up into a new position

If you’ve gone through all the previous steps, you’ve already gone a long way toward your career advancement. You might already have more options and better jobs.

You might also want to think about higher level education. Being a CHW is an excellent first step to being a…

  • medical assistant
  • nurse
  • dietitian

These jobs all require an advanced degree. So explore how training you have as a CHW can lead into an associate degree. How would that associate degree lead into a bachelor’s degree? What about a foreign language skill?

Keep working, and you’ll be able to use a CHW career as a way to keep moving up the career ladder.

7 Benefits of a Learning Subscription for Community Health Workers

7 Benefits of a Learning Subscription for Community Health Workers

If your organization needs to improve the public’s health and well-being in your community, then you already know community health workers (CHWs) are a good solution. That’s the directive of many of the Medicare health plans and clinics that work with CHWTraining.

The problem comes to deciding how to train a brand new CHW workforce or other support workers. Many individuals want to promote health and build community capacity to ensure health equity, but they might not have the skills. That can be an issue especially if you need them to be trained quickly.

You need efficiency in your training process so you’re not reinventing the wheel every time with every community health worker training. A ready-to-go learning process is important because traditional classroom training takes time and extra funding.

What is an Online Learning Subscription?

A learning subscription lets you begin training within a few days. It’s a digital learning solution that provides 24/7 access to a complete catalog of interactive training courses and videos for anyone on your team who needs to build skills or meet training requirements. Learning subscriptions are helpful for existing and new hires because they make it easy to stay current as health recommendations are constantly changed and revised. Access to a continuous learning system like CHWTraining keeps staff connected to enhanced training or CHW certification requirements with each new update.

Ultimately, the quicker your organization can hire and train CHWs, the faster they can do the tasks they’re are so good at: providing high-impact prevention, early intervention for at-risk individuals, navigation support, and linkage to care. Uncoordinated training efforts can put your health outreach projects at stake.

Take a look at these 7 benefits of a learning subscription for CHWs.

1. 24/7 access, all year long

Most learning subscriptions, including CHWTraining, provide year-round access, 24 hours per day. This means that your staff can access training when it’s convenient for them: between site visits or client calls or on weekends. It also means that you can train new people whenever you hire them any time within a 12-month period—or longer with a multi-year subscription.

2. Reduce administration

Many CHW programs are grant-funded, and they require careful documentation of who took which course and if they received a certificate of completion and when. This kind of administration is much easier if the training program is outsourced. Spending for grant requirements is clearly documented, and the need for expense reimbursements is greatly reduced.

3. Fulfill competency requirements

Many states follow CHW core competency requirements, such as those from the Community Health Worker Core Consensus Project (C3), and your team members might be required to meet them for employment. A CHW learning subscription tracks the common requirements nationally so you don’t have to.

4. Dedicated technical support

Most of the organizations we work with realize their training needs but lack the staff to do it. Many programs run on a slim team—sometimes of just one or two people. If they’re in charge of their regular job duties, the last thing they have the time or skills to do is support participants who need technical support. Having a technical support team—that speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin and other languages—can let in-house administrators focus on their day-to-day duties.

5. Keep knowledge fresh

Health recommendations change constantly, as do health and social service systems, grant objectives and population health concerns. CHW teams need to be informed of these changes when they happen. A training subscription means they have access to updates throughout the year—whenever they happen. You can make sure your team remembers what they learned by requiring them to refresh their training every year.

6. No need to reinvent the wheel

Many training programs, such as sexual harassment or assessment skills, don’t vary much from year to year or from class to class. Moving training online means getting away from repeating the same training year after year and to each employee group. This has tremendous cost savings.

7. Simplify reporting

Reports that are generated on the fly can help create a personal experience and give administrators an easy view of how staff are doing. Tracking progress is as easy as clicking a button, which lets you quickly identify a learner’s status and gain insight into their training journey.

These are just some of the many ways that a CHW learning subscription can greatly improve the quality of your workforce and training efforts.

Curious about how you can bring more efficiency into your community health worker training program? Contact CHWTraining to talk about your needs today.

What Supervisors Can Do To Support Mental Wellness of CHW Teams

Anyone supervising a community health worker team knows how important it is to support clients with depression, anxiety or other behavioral health issues.

What they might not realize is that their own staff might be feeling the same as their clients.

We’re taking a closer look at the negative effects of feelings of depression, anxiety, burnout and compassion fatigue on CHW staff at the Unity Conference 2019, which I’m previewing on March 26 with co-presenter Jeanine Joy, Ph.D. We’ll offer some solutions and strategies managers and supervisors can share with their team.


Burnout and mental disorders in CHWs

Why CHWs Feel Overwhelmed

CHWs create strong bonds with clients and report that they feel fulfilled by their jobs. However, CHWs are often called on to respond to mental health crises, but they might not have the training to handle it. They could be overworked and become discouraged when a relationship they build with a client ends. When they take on too much, they run the risk of depression, anxiety, burnout and compassion fatigue. When their mental wellness is at risk, so is your program.

“CHWs are often lauded for their ability to develop trust with peers, yet this willingness and ability to create enduring emotional bonds could threaten programme delivery,” says a study published in BMC Health Services Research.

In fact, community-based health workers are more likely to have problems with depression and mental health issues than the other members of their health care team.

Supervisor Training Gaps

In the process of developing three new modules for CHWTraining’s catalog (Depression and Anxiety, Motivational Interviewing and Supervisor Training), we immediately noticed some troubling trends:

  • Supervisors lack general training for managing teams of CHWs.
  • Supervisors lack training for dealing with mental wellness issues among their staff.
  • Many programs have few resources for supporting either supervisors or their staff.

Clearly, there’s a training and support gap that needs to be addressed. We’ve added courses on this topic to our online community health worker certification program, and we’re taking a deeper dive in an upcoming presentation “Supporting Mental Wellness In CHW Teams” (March 26 at 10 a.m.).

Here are some quick highlights.

Burnout, Depression and Anxiety Warning Signs

If you work in a close team, you might be able to easily tell if someone is feeling undue stress. In our behavioral health course, we flag these as some of the items to look for if you suspect someone needs help:

  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Avoiding people and activities
  • Smoking or drinking more, or using drugs
  • Mood swings
  • Apathy and calling in sick to work

Support Strategies for Supervisors

Start Before Problems Begin

One of the best things you can do is look out for any warning signs. But it’s even more effective to help your team avoid these dangers in the first place. Not only will you prevent any problems, but problems are much harder to address when they’ve already happened. Be proactive about the mental health of your team.

Listen Up

If you’re not sure if one of your CHWs is starting to feel the pressure of their job, listen. Be the kind of manager who is willing to listen to work-related issues. This gives employees the sense that they can come to you when they need to share. If they don’t volunteer information, make a habit of asking.

Similarly, encourage teamwork and bonding among the team. If you’re not there to lend an ear, someone else who understands the unique nature of being a CHW can provide a sympathetic ear.

Burn off Stress

At the top of the list is burning off stress. Organize informal picnics or potlucks with your team, so you’re connecting with each other in a way that’s not all about work. Or suggest walking meetings to recharge, as they do at Berkeley County School District, Moncks Corner, S.C.

Some organizations provide a mindfulness space to encourage relaxation or meditation. See if you can assign a room as a place where your staff can stop feeling overwhelmed. If you don’t have space or have a workforce that isn’t in a room together, encourage them to sit at their desk quietly, noticing their body’s sensations as they sit.

Mental Health Days

Your program should also offer mental health days as part of a benefits package. However, you should also suggest your staff take advantage of them. This can help CHWs realize that you support their mental wellness and that they can feel comfortable asking for time when they need it. Same goes for vacation time.

So, would you like to learn more?

Join us as we discuss improving your team’s mental wellness, identify signs that an employee is at risk for depression, anxiety, or secondary trauma, and show you how you can help your team improve their personal and professional lives. Sign up for this free presentation now.