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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.

5 Reasons to Cross-Train Your Healthcare Team as CHWs

Cross-training is a way to muscle up your healthcare organizations. It’s a technique often used to increase capacity among various nonclinical workers.

Using cross-training on an entire healthcare team on the core competencies of health promoters like community health workers (CHWs) and promotores can strengthen teams, improve client and patient care, and increase team efficiency.

→ Free Resource Guide: 10 Things To Fix in Women’s Health [Access Now]

What Is Cross-Training?

Cross-training is a method of spreading knowledge among a team by creating a baseline education among all team members. In casual circumstances, it might be as simple as an employee coaching others on their daily responsibilities during a lunch break or a more in-depth program to cross-train staff in primary care.

But it can also be a wider and more impactful program in healthcare agencies of all employees are cross-trained as CHWs. Most CHW training programs are accessible, easy to integrate with existing schedules, and applicable to anyone on a health staff.

The practice helps boost cohesion in the workplace because everyone understands what the CHW does and can immediately apply those skills to their day-to-day jobs. If you’re new to building an online training program for healthcare, start with learning about these benefits.

5 Benefits of Cross-Training Your Team as CHWs

  1. Excellent return on investment
  2. Promotes respect for CHWs
  3. Increases everyone’s knowledge
  4. Better team efficiency and collaboration
  5. Builds pathways for promotions and responsibilities

Excellent Return on Investment

CHWs are proven to improve health outcomes and lower costs for patients and health systems, so just imagine what could happen if you applied those skills to your entire team. Suddenly, everyone understands how to promote healthier eating for managing diabetes or navigating health insurance in simple terms or connecting patients and clients to the best specialist in your network or community.

The benefits to clients expand exponentially because they’re being supported at all touch points. Your agency is working together better and maximizing its budget.

Plus, you never have to hire a temp agency again. If your CHW needs to take time off, anyone can step in. This means that your CHWs can take off a year, a month, a vacation or even an hour for lunch. A nurse, a receptionist, an MA, a physician, a volunteer–anyone is able to answer calls, schedule appointments, connect to others. This means patients are happier and better looked after too.

Promotes Respect for CHWs

CHWs are in an awkward place in many healthcare agencies. They’re more focused on saving costs than earning money. So in a health center, for example, administrators are sometimes happier to support high earners like orthopedic surgeons than a CHW or promotora who’s trying to prevent someone coming into the hospital in the first place.

Cross-training a healthcare team can demonstrate the important and unique role of a CHW. This builds respect and understanding among the whole team. Finally, everyone else can understand what a CHW does.

 

Increases Everyone’s Knowledge

Healthcare specialists are important. All agencies need expert RNs and dietitians. But they also need expert RNs and dietitians that can motivate for change and know who to contact for Spanish interpretation in your agency.

Cross-training means your staff can support clients and patients at any stage of their wellbeing—especially if that person has complex healthcare needs. Anyone has the knowledge to help people with various diseases and conditions in different areas they might not be familiar with. Cross-trained staff are more comfortable and sensitive when supporting these clients and patients.

Better Team Efficiency and Collaboration

If a multidisciplinary team knows what the other members do, they can better communicate, coordinate job functions and patient care, and understand each other more clearly. Whenever people work together closely, they can offer suggestions for improvement and share their personal expertise.

This means that CHWs that are integrated into care teams can also understand workflows and the needs of other team members faster and intuitively. The upshot is teams get along better and need to do less explaining. This creates a more supportive environment for patients and CHWs.

Builds Pathways for Promotions and Responsibilities

CHWs who learn about others’ jobs become better at their own, and they’re also in a better position for promotion. When you cross-train healthcare employees to be CHWs, you open up the opportunity for CHWs to know more about how the rest of the care team works. They can then build other skills that can take them on to jobs with greater responsibility and breadth. This makes for happier, self-motivated employees all around.

7-Step Plan to Strong Core Competencies

Frontline health workers are the core of your organization and bringing new hires up to speed should be as steady as a healthy heart.

That process of training health workers, including community health workers or promotores (CHWs/Ps), in core competencies should be repeatable and worry-free, but it’s not always.

Download Now: Guides, Webinars and Articles for CHW Programs [Free Resources]

The problem is that some CHWs/Ps are brand new to the job and responsibilities, and others have decades of experience. Others still transfer to the position from a clinical background, such as nursing, and have different skillsets or must learn new job boundaries.

Not providing consistent training to these team members, their supervisors–and potentially the whole multidisciplinary care team—is trouble. Work doesn’t get done or done incorrectly, people step on each other’s toes, and it sparks friction among employees.

Why CHW Training Doesn’t Happen

CHWs/Ps have detailed jobs, they’re uniquely positioned in an agency, and they need to know how to do them. Most supervisors and program managers agree on that. But not all CHWs do. Why? Because some people are …

  • Confused about their job and don’t know how to ask for training
  • Nervous or embarrassed about asking supervisors for job training
  • Resistant to training support, especially if they feel they already know all there is to know
  • Overwhelmed supervisors who are juggling multiple job duties without adding training on top of it.

To add to the problem, CHWs/Ps are often considered to be at the bottom of the agency hierarchy, and decisionmakers decide to skip training.

In healthcare, the consequences of neglecting a core training plan are costly. At worst, clients and patients might not get the care they need. Or maybe it’s just that internal staff are confused, and that heaps onto your heap of management duties. The upshot is you’re pulled away from your regular work to address training gaps or its consequences.

So what do you do if you have a team that needs core competency training but aren’t sure where to start? Lucky for you, this problem has already been solved. Read on.

7-Step Plan to Strong Core Competencies

  1. Give CHWs a detailed job description.
  2. Find gaps.
  3. Document obsessively.
  4. Set time on the calendar for training and check-ins.
  5. Set up ongoing training.
  6. Don’t skimp on the training budget.
  7. Ask an expert to help you with your training plan.

Give CHWs a detailed job description.

Some agencies fail immediately because they don’t have a set job description for the CHW/P. But no one can do a good job if they don’t know what the job is. Create an overview of the job in writing, and a bulleted list of what each duty is. It can be helpful to create a job workflow to think of all possible tasks and how they’re implemented. If you’re at a loss, you could always start with something like Integrating Community Health Workers into Primary Care Practice from the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.

Many employers fail at effective onboarding right off the bat. Your new recruits won’t get off to a good start without absolute clarity about their responsibilities. Give them an overview in writing, as well as a bullet-pointed list of their primary duties. I find it helpful to rank the importance of these tasks to assist them in their prioritization process.

Find gaps.

Most agencies have at least some kind of internal training, and many have strengths in core competency areas like service coordination or ethics. Document what those training strengths are and then look for the weaknesses. Those gaps will tell you where you need to build out a comprehensive core competency training program.

If you’re looking for a list of competencies, read Most Important Job Skills To Build a CHW Career Path.

 

Document obsessively.

People leave their jobs for any number of reasons and programs evolve. Whatever you figure out now, document it so you can repeat it for the next time. Having a training process in place will help it go more smoothly.

You don’t have to do it yourself, by the way. Ask your current employees to write out what processes they use to complete their tasks. This might even be you if you’re just starting a CHW program, so write whatever you can when you can.

Set time on the calendar for training and check-ins.

Many unsuccessful training programs fail because there’s no urgency to complete or allotted time. You can solve both problems by setting a training framework, including:

  • Set up one-on-one times with you or a job peer to ask questions
  • Allow staff one day or afternoon a week just for training
  • Expand weekly training allowances include what CHWs/Ps should be learning all year.

Set up ongoing training.

Training isn’t a one-and-done event. It’s iterative and goes on to address the needs of clients, patients, and health trends. Implement a continuous learning strategy so you can help your staff always be aware of changes in guidelines and new skills.

Don’t skimp on the training budget.

When you’re figuring out how much to budget for your annual training plan, think about all the staff that should and can be trained under the same umbrella. CHWs/Ps need set courses for core competencies, but those courses can also be helpful for other staff or that might support other programs. That will help define where funding comes from and how much you can get from your investment.

Deciphering the true costs of online training is a complicated task that can easily reach beyond the boundaries of any grant or budget line item. Broaden your search to dig up all the costs you and your colleagues might be feeding into training–and identify ways to trim.

Your agency will set the training budget that fits, but make sure you have enough resources so you can do it right.

Ask an expert to help you with your training plan.

Successful CHW/P training covers core competencies and also many other nuances of client and patient care you might not have thought of. For example, a breast cancer screening course is better implemented with an outreach skills course.

An expert can take into consideration all your agency’s needs and strengths and make recommendations. The expert might be a partner agency, someone who set up a CHW training program at a different agency, or one of CHWTraining’s education consultants.

When a CHW/P core competency plan is set and your team is successfully completing it, everyone profits. Give your staff a chance to succeed, and your agency and community will benefit from a strong core.

Quiz: Is Your Community-Based Team Burned Out?

For most of us, a job with more independence; enough time to support staff, clients, and patients; and less stress would be ideal. But having this kind of flexibility when so many people need help is challenging. In fact, when stressors stack up, it’s easy for community health workers and promotores (CHWs/Ps) to reach a breaking point.

[Register now for Supporting Mental Wellness in CHW Teams]

Stress on the Job

Stress is a natural response to challenging situations. Low levels of stress are not damaging or a serious threat. In fact, a little stress can be a helpful motivator.

CHWs/Ps, healthcare workers, and in fact workers in most industries regularly face countless stressors. These can pile on top of daily stressors (divorce, sickness, financial difficulties) and anxiety-inducing world events … like pandemics.

But what happens when stress leads to exhaustion, a bleak view of your work and organization, and the loss of drive and interest in daily tasks? Burnout.

Burnout in Healthcare Providers

Burnout is when someone has reached a breaking point, they’ve lost control of the stress, struggle to keep up with work, and feel growing frustration. The World Health Organization recognized workplace burnout as a real condition in 2019.

Burnout on the job happens when someone runs out of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy. It happens when they’re dealing with emotionally demanding situations for a long time. People report feeling burned out when they feel tired, frustrated, and like they’re not meeting their personal or professional goals. Burnout can happen especially when CHWs/Ps are feeling stressed.

CHWs/Ps develop strong bonds with clients and report that they feel fulfilled by their jobs. However, CHWs/Ps are often called on to respond to mental health crises but may not have the training to handle these challenging situations.

Many CHWs/Ps and their teams are often overworked, which contributes to growing frustration. Taking on so many responsibilities ups their risk of depression, anxiety, burnout, and compassion fatigue.

Another common source of frustration and discouragement is when a relationship they build with a client ends. The emotional roller coaster that comes with getting involved in the lives of their community — the people in their care — makes it easy to get attached and struggle with feelings like guilt, sadness, and even anger.

When your CHWs/Ps’ mental wellness is at risk, so are their clients. And so is your program.

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.

Signs of Burnout

  • 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

In general, you can consider any big changes in everyday life patterns and habits a red flag among your team unless there’s a clear cause for them.

Whether you feel overwhelmed by tasks, trying to balance work and home, or just looking for ways to make your job better, here’s a quiz

you can take—or give to your CHW/P staff—to help determine if you should address burnout.

Quiz: Is Your Community-Based Team Burned Out or Stressed?

Ask your team members to select the answers that best apply to them.

1. Lately have you felt exhausted and frustrated at work?

2. Have you worried that your work is making you feel cynical?

3. Have you often felt down, depressed, or hopeless?

4. Have you felt overwhelmed or like you can’t finish all your tasks?

5. Have you felt anxious, depressed, or irritable?

6. Has your physical health declined, or have you been ill more frequently?

7. Do you believe that your work is not important or appreciated?

8. Do you find yourself simply wanting to escape by reading fiction, watching TV, playing video games, using substances?

Are You Dealing with Burnout?

If responses are mostly As, that could be full-fledged burnout. Even a single yes answer can indicate signs of burnout.

As a leader, you can create healthy work conditions, build a toolbox for your team to manage stress properly, and spot red flags that may point to hidden issues before your CHWs/Ps hit a breaking point. Help your staff to recover from burnout. A healthy, motivated staff makes all the difference in performance, job happiness, and overall wellbeing for your team and the people in your care.

Photo by energepic.com from Pexels

The Coronavirus Is Changing the Community Health Workforce. The Shifts May Be Here to Stay

Being a community health worker or promotora (CHW/P) now isn’t the same as it was in January. And the job might never be the same again. Public health departments, health plans, agencies, vocational high schools—all manner of health care systems in the United States are rethinking what it means to hire, train, and integrate CHW/Ps and other frontline health workers because of the coronavirus.

Since COVID-19 swept across the U.S., the many agencies and individuals are rethinking much of their CHW/P workforce: how new CHW/Ps are trained as they enter the job, what kinds of skills new and experienced workers need in a new health landscape, and even how they work as part of multidisciplinary healthcare teams.

[Ready for your next learning adventure? Start with CHWTraining’s Learning Tracks]

While some of the job changes are born out of necessity, some are simply a better way of working and connecting to clients and patients.

Here’s a closer look at three key ways in which the CHW/P job has changed and will probably stay.

In-Person Training Will Move Online

Virtual training is necessary because it’s not safe for many learners, trainers, and staff to safety travel to on-site locations. As time goes on, and as more health experts and communities warn that opening the country too soon could result in suffering and death, and critically for CHW/Ps, the ability to support underserved communities when they need it most.

The Washington State Department of Health usually offers in-person training across the state four times per year as part of its hybrid CHW training program. This year, however, just as the program was ready to offer its spring session, the state went on lock-down orders.

Washington is one of many organizations that say some or all training for CHW/Ps through the summer and fall is being provided online. Vocational high schools that train CHWs and other medical tech workers are also moving to an online format. We at CHWTraining have an entire team dedicated to creating a wide variety of courses and certifications to educate health workers no matter where they are so they can grow their careers.

CHW/Ps Will Use Telehealth

Telehealth, or telemedicine, is another domain that wasn’t part of many CHW/P tasks until recently. This is good news, because telehealth is a proven strategy to engage and support clients, especially those in rural communities. Now, most people are remote, and the same strategy of communicating with clients for long-distance health care and education works.

Exactly how CHW/Ps will use telehealth to connect with their clients is still evolving.

“Telehealth policy changes occurring within the COVID-19 environment have been rapidly developing on almost a daily basis,” according to Center for Connected Health Policy.

Some of the common ways telehealth is used, according to the Center, include:

  • Video conferencing in a live, two-way interaction between a patient and a provider
  • Store-and-forward technologies to transmit medical information, such as digital images, documents, and pre-recorded videos
  • Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) to send personal health and medical data collection from a patient in one location to a provider in a different location
  • Mobile Health (mHealth) to support clinical and public health services and education on mobile devices such as phones and tablets
  • eConsult for providers to consult with specialists via live video conferencing or store-and-forward.

Skill Areas Will Evolve

Health education, outreach, referrals, and understanding health disparities are all important skills that CHW/Ps provide on a daily basis. Those are more important than ever in a pandemic. Prevention is essential to protecting the lives of people in low-income communities without adequate access to healthcare.

CHW/Ps, for example, can organize hand hygiene stations for homeless and migrant areas. They can use telehealth (see above) to check in with high-risk community members. They can keep people out of overused emergency rooms by teaching skills like understanding how to read and follow an asthma care plan.

Many CHW/P jobs include tasks no one ever imagined a few months ago – sometimes in ways they wouldn’t have thought of. The term “contact tracing” is something associated with CHWs during the Ebola crisis in Africa or cholera in Haiti, but wasn’t really practiced in the United States. CHW/Ps are working within their communities to map cases before it spreads.

Providing social support and behavioral health support are going to be even more important than before.

CHW/Ps Will Be More Integrated

Many healthcare systems that have considered using CHW/Ps, or use them but aren’t sure how they connect with the larger system, will need to change. These organizations’ workforces will need to understand the role of a CHW/P and how it differs from a social worker, case manager, or nurse. When disasters—health and otherwise—effect a community, it’s helpful to have a community-based workforce to minimize its impact.

“Right now there’s a focus on coordinating services for high-risk individuals to meet their health and social needs and help them remain at home safely to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19,” Melanie Bella, chief of new business and policy at Cityblock Health and current chair of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) said in an interview with Center for Health Care Strategies.

“States may want to consider re-focusing efforts on making system changes that increase coordination and alignment,” she advised.

Now more than ever before healthcare systems need to invest in CHW/Ps. They’re essential during pandemics and not.

 

8 Helpful Tips for Running Better Virtual Trainings

For the health and safety of learning communities, it’s a good idea to host all training events online in the coming weeks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and advice from the World Health Organization are advising people stay home as much as possible. You can still protect the health and safety of your staff while updating your training policy to host training events online.

Face-to-face trainings can make it feel easier to communicate and read the reactions of others in the room. But an online training, especially a webinar, can make it seem like you’re losing some of the participants.

Remote training sessions aren’t identical to in-person education, but there are ways to make them effective, productive—and lower your anxiety levels. Here are 8 top tips that will help you get more value out of your virtual training.

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8 Tips for Better Virtual Trainings

  1. Choose the Right Tool for the Training
  2. Make a Plan
  3. Consider Time Zones and Schedules
  4. Send a Welcome Message
  5. Navigate Spam Filters
  6. Practice, Practice, Practice
  7. Keep Learners Engaged
  8. Provide Contact with Mentors or Coaches

1. Choose the Right Tool for the Training

The most important decision when you move training online is what tool you’ll use to offer it. Different situations and materials call for different solutions.

If you’re doing a one-off training that takes no more than 1.5 hours, a webinar is a good choice, and you can use a tool like GoToMeeting, Join.me, Uber Conference, or Zoom. Learn more about a few popular video conferencing services.

If you need to repeat the training, need to offer certificates, or need more in-depth training, then self-guided online education is the solution you need. The fastest and easiest way to train your staff without being in the same room is through a learning and training subscription. Learning subscriptions are helpful so you’re not reinventing the wheel every time you train every community health worker.

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.

2. Make a Plan

Unless you’re a pro at holding online trainings, having a careful plan is the key to a smooth event. A project plan helps you assign tasks, collaborate with others, and remove stress for everyone. Even if you’re the only one holding your online training, you should plot out the sequence of events and when they should happen.

At a minimum, include these main categories in an elearning project plan, including task, milestone, and person responsible:

  • Registration
  • Text or content writing
  • Graphic design
  • Platform set up
  • Rehearsal
  • Follow-up

3. Consider Time Zones and Schedules

Nearly everyone has mixed up meeting times with someone in a different time zone. Consider time zones when you set your event, and think about when people are free.

You might even survey your learners to find out when it’s most convenient for them to meet. There are a lot of good scheduling tools out there, but we often use Doodle:

4. Send a Welcome Message

Welcome messages help you set expectations and highlight anything important when people are most attentive. Use your welcome message to give students a quick preview of the virtual training, give them contact information, state prerequisites, and give them major deadlines they can copy into their calendars.

5. Navigate Spam Filters

Spam filters are notorious for blocking messages from anyone, especially if your team works at a healthcare facility, which seem to have even more strict blocking measures. Double-down on your notifications and messaging by sending in multiple formats: email, automatic notification, Slack, text.

You might even reach out to your learners via their personal email addresses if possible, since so many people are home and might not have access to their work email accounts.

6. Practice, Practice, Practice

Before you step into that virtual classroom, know what you’re doing by practicing, multiple times if needed. This will give you a chance to try out new technology tools, new material, and be ready for unplanned events.

“Find a group of people who will support your learning curve and practice with the technology. Ideally you gather a group large enough to practice different features of the platform you’ve selected, such as organizing breakout rooms” advises Laura Wells, a trainer who regularly delivers leadership training around San Francisco in person. She has started delivering distance training sessions for clients, and is currently planning to deliver an exceptional virtual format of the Search Inside Yourself program (details at info@awakeinbusiness.com) for which she is a certified teacher. She needed to quickly get up-to-speed in April when one training was rapidly converted to an online format.

“Practicing saved the day,” she says.

“It’s tricky to switch smoothly between screen sharing of content to organizing breakout rooms without losing focus (yours and the participants). Going through that a few times in practice made it much less awkward during the live training,” Wells says. “I was so happy to get through the awkwardness with friends first! And that first April session received excellent evaluation marks from the participants.”

Some tools, such as GoToWebinar, let you start events in practice mode without leading a live session. Even if you fake your own practice mode, run through the event with other presenters, moderators, hosts, and organizers to perfect it before your learners show up.

“I also think a benefit of the practice session with friends is stress management. You don’t feel so alone in it. Sitting in your living room facilitating a training can feel a bit surreal,” Wells says. “It’s great to have the practice people already there in the room with you.”

7. Keep Learners Engaged

For some people, the idea of not being able to sit in the same room with an instructor is a big turn-off. “Remote” learning doesn’t have to feel far away if you focus on building community with your online group.

Encourage the instructor to introduce themselves to your staff and ask them to share information with one another. This will help build a personal rapport. It can also be helpful to build periodic conference calls into a course, or create virtual office hours, so participants can interact with the instructor. A mentoring structure can help too, if you can pair learners with experienced health workers.

Some other best practices for increasing engagement:

  • Ask early and often what participants think.
  • Offer rewards, such as certificates or CEUs.
  • Ask everyone to turn on their video cameras to help everyone connect with each other.
  • Remind participants to be in a quiet place, mute themselves when not speaking, and use a headset.

8. Provide Contact with Mentors or Coaches

If a health worker works in an office or clinic, they have regular contact with managers or coaches and can use new skills with their supervisors right away. Some remote workers don’t have regular access to supervisors or mentors, so what they pick up in class could sit stagnant. This is one of several hidden challenges of training remote learners.

If mentors aren’t in the learners’ communities, put them there, at least virtually. This could mean setting up phone calls with a coach to discussion implementation of the skills or requiring regular online check-ins through the forums or email. A little extra attention, and accountability, can make a big difference in a health worker implementing what they learned faster and better.

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5 Ways To Save Your Budget with a Sustainable CHW Training Program

When it comes to training community health workers (CHWs) for your agency, it’s more important than ever that you demonstrate a sustainable program.

The research already shows that CHWs can save organizations millions, especially when it comes to supporting complex patients and high ER room utilizers. CHW programs offer proven return on investment (ROI) when implemented effectively. A recent analysis by Penn Medicine showed its community health worker program yields $2.47 for every $1 invested annually by Medicaid.

[Related: Most Important Job Skills To Build a CHW Career]

At the same time, it’s vital not to sacrifice quality. We meet agencies on a regular basis that train their staff by emailing out a PDF document. That might be a helpful resource document, but it’s not a training program. You’ll want to keep your training relevant, up-to-date with health guidelines, and engaging enough that your staff actually wants to participate in it.

Considering the pressures on keeping a CHW program afloat, your strategy for creating a new program or maintaining an initiative needs to be flexible, smart, and strategic. Anything you can do to keep costs down is a benefit. It’s important to remember that while a CHW training program is a necessary investment, not all expenses are expensive.

5 Strategies for Reducing the Cost of Training CHWs

  1. Calculate the cost of your existing training.
  2. Centralize your education efforts.
  3. Cut travel related to training and move online.
  4. Partner up with other programs, departments, and agencies.
  5. Re-examine Medicaid.

Here are several examples that you can follow to train your CHWs without over spending and staying within a budget, whether you’re responsible for a small, midsize, or large organization.

1. Calculate the cost of your existing training.

Deciphering the true costs of online training is a complicated task that can easily reach beyond the boundaries of any grant or budget line item. You may be paying more for training than you think. Think about the cost of updating outdated materials or using expensive trainers. Broaden your search to dig up all the costs you and your colleagues might be feeding into training–and identify ways to trim and consolidate (more on that below).

Here are some places to look when calculating your existing training costs, but remember this is only a start:

  • Room rentals
  • Facilitators
  • Per diem for traveling CHWs
  • Lunch
  • Materials
  • Communication
  • Marketing costs
  • Tuition

Calculate cost of CHW training2. Centralize your education efforts.

Many agencies have multiple departments training similar people in the same skills. Someone who is a case manager in one department might be doing the same work as a CHW in another. If they both need to learn outreach skills, then train them together.

This also goes for partnerships with training organizations. Many of our clients don’t realize at first that they can bring all their online courses into CHWTraining. We can host many different types of courses in one learning management system. This can be a tremendous savings, because it means that our clients can completely eliminate the redundant cost of hosting training for different people in different systems.

3. Cut travel related to training and move online.

Travel is the number one budget-eater when it comes to training. Airfare, hotels, meals, time away from the office…it can amount to thousands for each employee. End it. Just stop paying for any travel and offer e-learning.

This can be a game-changer in more ways than one. Not only are you avoiding costs associated with travel, you’re also making it much more convenient for your workers to access educational content in an engaging format whenever they need it. This could be when they’re home, when they have time between seeing clients or patients, or when they have a critical need for skills, such as information about finding immunizations during a flu outbreak.

Elearning courses can be updated quickly and easily, and they often don’t need a facilitator at all. Saving staffing and travel while making training better and more accessible is a solid way to boost your ROI.

4. Partner up with other programs, departments, and agencies.

Your partner agencies or neighboring departments likely have similar training needs to you. Start networking and find a way to share the expense of learning. Bonus: Your CHWs benefit from more cross-departmental networking, and it makes their job of making referrals easier.

The more you ask around, the more you can identify internal and external subject-matter experts who can supplement any existing training efforts.

Imagine that you have an asthma home visit program that requires your CHWs to go door-to-door to help clients understand their asthma care plans and identify allergens and triggers. Now imagine that you contact your agency’s EMS coordinator and explain that your CHWs are in clients’ homes. Your EMS partner pulls out a Vial of Life kit and offers to show your team how it works and how they can set it up with clients.

Think how that one contact could significantly improve the life of your clients and enrich your internal training efforts.

5. Re-examine Medicaid.

CHWs are billable providers, although federal codes and regulations could make it difficult to allow for direct billing. “The Medicaid SS1115 waiver permits states to use federal funds in ways that do not conform to federal standards, so in this case Medicaid funds can be used to support CHW programs,” according to the American Hospital Association (AHA).

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