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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.

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.

Smiling CHW Learner

12 Skills You Need To Build a CHW Career

Employment opportunities for community health workers (CHWs) are better than ever.  More organizations are looking for ways to include CHWs and provide more CHW core competency training for internal staff.

This has never been so true as now, while the world is fighting to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to give some relief to overtaxed health care systems. CHWs have an especially important role to play. The US Department of Homeland Security specifically called out CHWs as:

“Essential critical infrastructure workers who are imperative during the response to the COVID-19 emergency for both public health and safety as well as community well-being.”

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

This is a great opportunity for anyone looking to put themselves on a CHW career path while improving health outcomes for their community.

Careful planning of a CHW career path can allow anyone who starts with an entry-level job to expand it into a rewarding career. 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 Job Outlook

The statistics are inspiring. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for CHWs are expected to rise 18.1% by 2026. That means that 10,400 jobs could open up. Also, salaries for already employed CHWs are increasing. Wages are good, about $19 per hour, or $39,540 every year.

Gaining the skills to become a CHW can open the door to a money-making and secure career.

Building a CHW career path–rather than just finding an entry-level job—involves understanding the core competencies and what kinds of skills are useful for growth into the future.

In order to earn a profitable job and build a lasting career, current CHWs and people who would like to be one need to keep their health and professional skills sharp. They need to take extra training and prove their knowledge and expertise through certification.

CHWTraining’s Core Competencies Training offers complete, up-to-date training for employers who want to provide staff with foundational skills and knowledge of specific health topics, such as diabetes or breast cancer.

We created the quick guide below as a tool for employers who want to build sustainable training programs and CHWs who want to understand the job qualifications.

CHW Core Competencies

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.

CHW jobs by state

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

However, many core competencies training requirements are similar. The following are common skills required by many programs and advisory committees. Here are some CHW core competency training areas common among the Washington State Department of Health’s CHW program, the Roles and Competencies from the Community Health Worker Core Consensus (C3) Project, the US Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. You can compare more national requirements at State Community Health Worker Models from the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) or from this guide.

12 Most Important Skills To Build a CHW Career Path

CHW Core Competency Example Skills
Advocacy Skills/Capacity Building Skills
  • empowering clients
  • motivating people to manage their own health and advocate for themselves
  • helping clients and patients set and reach their goals
  • supporting behavior change
  • identifying and overcome barriers
  • understanding community cultures and ways to reach members
Care Coordination or Service Coordination and System Navigation
  • navigating systems
  • collaborating with partners to connect clients and patients to resources
  • helping service providers work together
  • telling systems about needs of people
  • helping to develop and implement care plans
Communication Skills
  • listening skills
  • language skills
  • building rapport
  • using nonverbal communication
  • resolving and avoiding conflict
  • understanding and working within culturally diverse communities
Cultural Humility/Cultural Responsiveness
  • serve as a bridge between different cultures
  • translating healthy behaviors into culturally appropriate equivalents
  • understanding and working to reduce health disparities
  • using cultural sensitivities for all diverse groups
  • behaving respectfully
  • identifying biases
Education and Facilitation Skills
  • using various ways to deliver health information clearly
  • explaining terms in plain language
  • promoting healthy behavior change
  • finding and use resources to develop self-efficacy skills
Evaluation and Research
  • identifying issues in communities and their causes
  • conducting evaluation projects
  • collecting data
  • sharing results
  • communicating to stakeholders to make changes in services
Experience and Knowledge Base
  • fully understanding the community, including social determinants of health, health issues, ways to improve health and self-care, and basic public-health principles
  • understanding how US social-service systems work
Individual and Community Assessment and Direct Services
  • identifying needs, strengths and resources of communities
  • helping meet needs
  • helping clients understand their needs and overcome barriers
  • providing social and health support
Interpersonal and Relationship-Building Skills
  • establishing trust with people and in communities
  • being open-minded
  • using Motivational Interviewing techniques
Outreach Skills, Methods and Strategies
  • developing and implementing outreach plans
  • sharing information about programs and resources
  • creating and maintain relationships with community members and partners
Professional Skills and Conduct
  • understanding and handling legal and ethical challenges
  • respecting confidentiality and privacy rights
  • responding appropriately in complex situations
  • understanding and following agency rules

Originally published Oct 31, 2019, updated October 02, 2020.

Setting CHW Learning Goals

By Eliana Ifill

The career path that leads to being a community health worker (CHW) or promotor de salud is one full of growth opportunities, hands-on experience, and human interaction. As a CHW, you have the chance to improve your community members’ well-being every day and help them across the most challenging stumbling blocks in their lives.

But that’s not all there is to it.

Aspects like bureaucracy, unclear scopes of practice, and the complicated nature of health care–especially for marginalized communities–leave many CHWs feeling overloaded and like it’s hard too to set professional development and learning goals.

However, setting professional goals is the best way to build skills for the job you have and start to gain experience for advancing on a career path.

The first step in being a CHW is to complete core competencies training—this is often required from the state where you live. Then, build on to that solid base with specialized training that fits the needs of your community or what you want to do. Meet with your supervisor regularly, maybe every three months or twice a year, to discuss these options and get their support.

Continuous education and training will help you benefit your career and also help the people you work with. Read on for more ideas about setting your own learning goals.

5 Things To Keep in Mind When Setting Your CHW Learning Goals

  1. What areas in your community need the most support?
  2. What certificates or training does your state require for CHW programs?
  3. What are your professional goals?
  4. How are you going to measure your CHW learning goals?
  5. What support systems do you have in place?

 

1.     What areas in your community need the most support?

Community health workers and promotores de salud work closely with underserved communities, families with little to no access to basic health care. As a CHW, you have the opportunity to address the unique challenges your community is facing and help them overcome these barriers.

When setting your CHW learning goals, keep in mind:

  • medical conditions of clients
  • requirements of your employer
  • specific needs of those in your community.

This might include a chronic illness that’s a problem where you live, such as diabetes or heart disease. Or it might include more general skills such as advocacy, help navigating health insurance, transportation, or language services.

2.     What certificates or training does your state require for CHW programs?

While not all states have legislation in place for CHW programs, it’s important to check with your local authorities whether you need official certifications, hands-on experience (many programs require a number of supervised hours in the field), or any other requirement as you start your CHW career.

Not sure where to start? Find out what the CHW certification requirements in your state.

3.     What are your professional goals?

Whether you’re looking at a long-term career as a CHW or see this as a steppingstone, your professional goals should shape your choices from early on.

If you’re considering a career in public health, medicine, or social services, it’s smart to explore your local opportunities and connect with other professionals in positions similar to what you’re after. Look at some of the most important job skills to build a CHW career path.

4.     How are you going to measure your CHW learning goals?

Once you’ve more or less defined your aspirations as a CHW, it’s time to clearly outline your goals and create an action plan.

For goal setting, you can use a system like SMART goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based (or time-bound).

An example of a SMART CHW learning goal is:

Contact my local authority to request the certification requirements before registration for the Core Competencies course closes for this quarter.

5.     What support systems do you have in place?

While working on the field can be extremely rewarding, you’ll likely face many challenges as a CHW, both in witnessing struggle firsthand and navigating bureaucracy and injustice day in and day out.

Developing healthy habits and a strong support system, along with clear boundaries, is key to protect your own well-being and those closest to you. Take this quiz to see if you might be burned out.

Wondering What a CHW Does? Start Here

Recently, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that employment of community health workers (CHWs) and other health educators is booming. It will grow 11% by 2028, a much higher rate than other occupations. Those numbers have almost certainly increased after the coronavirus, because many health systems need the unique skills of a CHW.

Learn what it takes to be a CHW: click here >

It’s a secure job choice if you’re considering a career as a CHW. If you’re a program manager or director looking for ways to increase the impact and response of your healthcare team, you should consider adding CHWs.

First, you should understand what exactly a CHW is. CHWs and other health promoters have a distinctive place in the community and unique relationships with patients and clients. Individuals and agencies should have an idea about how to work as or with a CHW. That’s why typical CHW core competencies training includes roles and boundaries of the job.

 

To help you understand this job better, we’re offering a free training called What Is a CHW? on September 22 at 9 a.m. Eastern.

This is the first step in our core competencies training program, and one that’s shared all across the US. The 1-hour online presentation shows how CHWs work within agencies and how to get started on your career.

In this free webinar, we cover topics to help you understand more about the job, such as:

  • How CHWs are members of a community
  • The responsibilities of CHWs
  • The most common places where CHWs work
  • The key skills CHWs should develop to succeed on the job

We have limited space for this webinar, so register today.

Roles and Responsibilities of a CHW Career [Free Event]

What does it take to have a team of community health workers (CHWs) working for your agency? Well, the answer to that question starts with understanding their roles and responsibilities.

Sign Up Now: What Is a CHW? [Free Webinar]

Some organizations already have a good sense of exactly a CHW does and how their jobs mesh with other staff. For others, it’s all new for supervisors, newly hired CHWs, and other members of a multidisciplinary healthcare team.

That’s why roles and responsibilities is one of the most essential core skills a CHW can learn. While what it takes to be a CHW varies from agency to agency and state to state, a baseline understanding of exactly what a CHW is common among everyone. Be sure to attend our free virtual core competency training event What Is a CHW?

Some states have certification programs, and some employees require stringent on-the-job training. Though ideas of what a CHW is might not be the same, there some standards that employers and organizations have in common.

CHW Core Competencies

1.      Roles and Responsibilities

Understanding what CHWs are supposed to do with training in roles and responsibilities and what their responsibilities are through a well-defined scope of practice is the first step in a solid CHW education. This helps the whole healthcare team work more smoothly and gives CHWs the best chance to enhance access to healthcare.

2.      Advocacy Skills/Capacity-Building Skills

CHWs should know how to empower clients and motivate them to manage their own health. Part of this is teaching others how to advocate for themselves and demonstrate ways to help people reach their goals. Supporting behavior change relies on identifying and overcoming barriers, understanding community cultures, and finding ways to reach members.

3.      Care Coordination or Service Coordination and System Navigation

Care or service coordination involves navigating systems and collaborating with partners to connect clients to resources. This practice helps service providers work together and also works to tell systems about the needs of the people who use them. It also includes helping to develop and implement care plans.

4.      Communication Skills

Listening skills, language skills, building rapport, are cornerstone skills for anyone working with clients, especially CHWs. Communication extends beyond spoken and written words to knowing how to use and interpret nonverbal communication. A strong base in communication means CHWs can resolve and avoid conflict with clients and also at work, and understand how to work working within culturally diverse communities.

5.      Cultural Humility/Cultural Responsiveness

CHWs serve as a bridge between different cultures. This means that they often translate—sometimes literally–healthy behaviors into culturally appropriate equivalents. They must understand and work to reduce health disparities and use cultural sensitivities for all diverse groups. Cultural inclusiveness lets CHWs behave respectfully and identify bias so it’s less of an influence in care.

6.      Education and Facilitation Skills

Using various ways to deliver health information clearly means that clients and patients are healthier and have better outcomes. Core education skills include knowing how to explain terms in plain language and promote healthy behavior change. They also find and use resources to develop self-efficacy skills.

7.      Evaluation and Research

Research skills help CHWs identify issues in their communities and what causes them. They might do this via evaluation projects, and then collecting data on them. By sharing results to stakeholders and community leaders, they can make critical changes in services happen.

8.      Experience and Knowledge Base

Being a CHW means understanding the landscape. They must fully understand the community, including social determinants of health and local and national health issues. With this information, they can find ways to improve the health of their clients and promote self-care. Basic public-health principles helps CHWs understand how US social-service systems work.

9.      Individual and Community Assessment and Direct Services

Identify the needs of a community is a must for any CHW. An assessment includes identifying the strengths and available resources of their communities. They also sort out what is necessary to help meet those needs and why clients should care. This also extends to individuals, who need to overcome barriers in order to receive social and health support.

10.  Interpersonal and Relationship-Building Skills

The field of behavior change is largely about relationship-building. Whether CHWs are building relationships with their clients, their workplace peers, or management, their career largely depends on their ability to build strong bonds with each group of people.

This can be an effective strategy to establish trust with people and in communities. Relationship pros are open-minded and know how to use Motivational Interviewing techniques to support clients.

11.  Outreach Skills, Methods and Strategies

CHWs are like marketers for the services available to their clients. So knowing how to develop and implement outreach plans is important. This includes finding the best ways to reach their community members–often via phone, email, or social media—to share information about programs and resources. This also builds on ways to create and maintain relationships with community members and partners.

12.  Professional Skills and Conduct

Having base professional skills and how to conduct in the job is a key to success. CHWs need to understand the context of and how to handle legal and ethical challenges. This includes respecting confidentiality and privacy rights, and responding appropriately in complex situations. This varies by agency, so they should know how to understand and follow agency rules.

Looking for ways to develop and refine these skills and competencies for members of your CHW team? Join CHWTraining for a deep dive into the first and most common core competency—What Is a CHW? in our free virtual training session on September 22 at 10 a.m. Pacific/1 p.m. Eastern.

Community outreach in Liberia by UNMEER

Community Engagement the Right Way with Outreach Skills

Four essential outreach skills for putting a community engagement plan into action.

After months—maybe years—of planning, research, building, and even growing a few extra gray hairs, your program is ready for your community. You’re certain that you’ve trained your community health team to keep people out of emergency rooms, lower their high blood pressure, control their diabetes, keep them safe from skin cancer. You’ve met all your grant objectives, you’re confident what you’ve created is destined to help, and your community is…silent.

What did you miss?

It could be outreach.

Even the best programs can fail if no one knows about them. Keeping communities in better health begins with an outreach effort. All community health worker (CHW), care coordination or other health promotion teams should understand what outreach is and why it helps, so it pays to train them with the right skills to spread word about your programs and services.  Outreach is a critical element of any core competencies training plan. Don’t forget to download our free guide to state requirements for CHW certifications.

What Is Community Outreach?

Community outreach and engagement means talking to local groups, using local media and social media to discuss healthy habits, or appearing at community events to do demonstrations and build linkages. Outreach is essential for connecting people to healthcare and services. It helps to delivers evidence-based information and minimizes communication gaps among providers and the public.

And you need to do it many ways, and you need to do it over and over again. Research shows that people won’t act on something until they’ve heard or seen it seven times, on average. The rule of seven is an old marketing rule that happens to still be true.

Successful outreach is definitely and art, but also a science. Skills can be learned, and many of them most CHWs already have through collaborating with other health care practitioners and working with clients.

Safe Community Outreach During COVID-19

Community outreach programs can range in size and scale, but in 2019, they usually involved sending representatives to places like health fairs, farmers markets, and other local events to get personal with community members. “Personal” could range from shaking hands to taking blood pressure readings.

Here in 2020 amid the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19), those practices are unthinkable—if they’re even possible at all. Many events are virtual or canceled, and your staff needs to follow social distancing guidelines to keep everyone healthy and limit the spread of the disease.

The irony is now is exactly the time your agency might need to do more outreach. People need to know about wearing face coverings, staying home, staying apart, and getting flu shots. Check out our COVID resources for CHWs.

Your agency will likely have to decide which outreach campaigns take a back seat for now, and which you will have to continue carefully. Some ways to do outreach without spreading the disease could be:

  • Care coordination or service coordination with telehealth
  • Making phone calls to community members for check-ins and reminders of important appointments

Increase training for CHWs in simple and effective practices they can do during a brief home visit, such has first aid or brief screenings, such as for COVID-19 symptoms.  Online training platforms are a good solution for keeping your team up-to-date on outreach skills without gathering together in a room. Try a learning subscription from CHWTraining for year-round training or offer sessions on web meeting platforms like Zoom.

No matter if your outreach program is happening during the pandemic or later, here are four essential outreach skills to share with your team that they can start using right away.

  1. Build organizational skills.
  2. Tell a story—and feel free to make it personal.
  3. Make sure the right people hear it.
  4. Repeat and repeat again.

 

1) Build organizational skills.

Taking on an outreach project requires organization. If you’re a program manager, you’ll have to make sure your team members can control their own chaos and work well with others. It also means proficiency in capturing information, conducting research. A good base in organizational skills will form the foundation of successful outreach projects.

2) Tell a story—and feel free to make it personal.

Our culture is built on connecting with others in society, and the best way to do that is to listen and relate to others’ stories. Keeping hypertension under control might boil down to blood pressure readings, but it’s so much more engaging to know how and why it matters in real life. If you need help phrasing a story, the Acrobatant blog has a great article Three Ways to Tell Your Story in Healthcare Marketing.

ReThink Health also has a Public Narrative Toolkit for outreach skills that includes short videos, worksheets, meeting agendas, and coaching tips for telling stories.

When doing any kind of outreach, ask your team to think about their own experience or those of others and how it relates, because this is what sparks excitement and engagement.

3) Make sure the right people hear it.

Part of being organized is identifying your target audience, or the people who you need to communicate your message with. Even the most compelling story and useful program or service will fall flat if you skip this step. Spend time carefully identifying who you need to reach with your outreach project.

For example, you might target mothers with small children with a sunscreen use outreach project. What places do they visit around town? Do they use social media? Do health fairs work for your clients? Can you partner with schools or businesses? Learn your audience and support system so you can connect meaningfully.

4) Repeat, and repeat again.

Once is never enough. After you’ve done the research, drafted the your story, and found a target audience, deploy the outreach plan. And then do it again. People need to be reminded, because they forget, get distracted, the information isn’t relevant—whatever the reason is, hearing a message multiple times makes it click.

Outreach skills are only one part of the most important skills to build a CHW training program that will guarantee the success of your program. Have a look at some of our skill-building training courses to think about how they fit into your initiative.

Originally published Sep 26, 2019, updated Aug 28, 2020.

3 Powerful Communication Skills That Build Rapport

Building strong communication skills is one of the core skills of a career as a health promoter, such as a community health worker (CHW) or promotora. Learn about these powerful communication skills and how to improve them and add them into your CHW program.

One of the most important skills that health promoters, such CHWs, need to have is the ability to form a healthy rapport with clients and patients.

[Learn the Most Important CHW Core Competencies – Read Now]

Rapport is the strong connection that helps relationships to build and strengthen. But it doesn’t come automatically, at least not all the time. Some people simply click and don’t have to work at developing it. The good news is that establishing rapport is a skill that any CHW can build and use with any client.

Why Does Rapport Matter?

The benefits of this communication skill to a CHW program are significant. Building rapport requires a minor time investment but pays off majorly with patient compliance, understanding the disease process, and even the eventual health outcomes.

There are three skills that you should follow in order to establish a good rapport with clients and patients:

1.    Listen

A large part of successfully supporting clients and patients is giving information and effectively getting your point across. But listening to what your clients have to say is equally important.

Melissa Daimler of Twitter wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review that explains different levels of listening:

Level 1: internal listening – is when you focus on your own thoughts, worries, and priorities, while you look like you’re focusing on the other person.

Level 2: focused listening – this next level means you’re focusing on the other person, but you’re not really connecting all the way.

Level 3: 360 listening – here’s the goal. This is when you’re listening to what someone is saying and how, plus interpreting what they’re not saying with words.

Building listening skills is tough. But you here are some ways to improve:

  1. Make eye contact.
  2. Give the client enough time to talk—don’t cut them off mid-sentence.
  3. Show respect by never making clients feel rushed when they are with you.
  4. Maintain professionalism while being approachable at the same time.
  5. Ask open-ended questions designed to gather information.

 

2.    Understand

CHWs find solutions to clients’ health problems by understanding their situation. You may not agree with all your clients or even like all of them, but making a genuine effort to understand where they are coming from is a large part of building trust and loyalty.

Cultural sensitivity is important because some issues, such as family planning, are still taboo and need to be approached with a certain restraint to avoid causing uneasiness.

The goal here is not to turn your clients into friends but to know them more than just what is on the case history sheet.

Ways to improve understanding skills:

  1. Repeat what your client says back to them. And ask them to repeat back any instructions you give to them.
  2. Practice empathy by putting yourself in the shoes of your clients. And cultivate a shame-free environment for sharing.
  3. Know your community through a community assessment. This will help you know what kinds of challenges your clients face before even talking with an individual. This should be part of community engagement and outreach training.
  4. Do what you can to boost your clients’ health literacy skills. This will help them read, understand, and act upon information you share.
  5. Encourage clients to share their views with you and ask them what they think to gauge at what level of understanding they have.

3.    Be Clear

One of the common mistakes that all healthcare providers make is assuming their clients know more than they do. Use your listening and understanding skills to tailor the information being shared. It is important that the client and healthcare provider be on the same plane of communication so they can work towards the same goals.

  1. Use the right language. This might be avoiding medical jargon or using multilingual resources.
  2. Include visual aids. They will help bring your words to life and encourage the clients to be more participative in the process.
  3. Say the same thing in different ways. Repeating yourself is OK, especially in slightly different ways that makes it easier for someone to get what they might have missed the first time.
  4. Slow down. It might take longer, but good communication means you have to speak slowly. Plus, it will save on clarifying phone calls later.
  5. Explain why. Sometimes people don’t make lifestyle changes because they don’t know why. Explain the reason for doing something to really drive the point home.

Getting clients to trust a CHW and other healthcare providers is as important as any treatment they receive. Every client walks in with similar expectations of wanting to be heard, demanding your complete attention and to be kept in the loop as to the decisions being taken. A couple of minutes of undivided attention on every visit is all that is required to achieve all of this.

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels