Hiring a community health worker (CHW) supervisor is both challenging and exciting. How you handle recruiting and working with this position can have a huge impact on your CHW program and the community you serve.
Being a supervisor for CHWs requires specific skills that may not be present in candidates with general management experience. CHWs deal with difficult and complicated situations related to health and social issues. A committed CHW supervisor plays an important role by offering necessary support and guidance to CHWs, helping them carry out their responsibilities. They provide mentorship, address any concerns and offer solutions to challenges faced by CHWs in their work.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to consider what ongoing supervision means to your team so you can recruit the right person. Also, they’ll have the best chance of staying on board.
This guide covers:
- What a CHW supervisor does
- What makes a CHW supervisor unique
- Qualities and skills
You should have a good sense of what a CHW supervisor does and be ready to bring one on board. Be sure to check out this article for more information.
What a CHW Supervisor Does
A CHW supervisor is in charge of managing one or more CHWs as part of a team to deliver services. Usually, the team is focused on addressing social determinants of health and bridging the gap among communities, individuals and providers.
A CHW supervisor could spend their time addressing concerns of community members, making data collection is accurate and up to date and supporting the CHW in their job. They might coordinate documentation and partnerships. They often work together on programmatic plans and systems to ensure the CHW program runs smoothly.
CHWs might need to keep learning and growing to improve their skills and knowledge. A CHW supervisor helps with this by setting up training, arranging workshops, and encouraging ongoing learning. They figure out what kind of training is needed and help CHWs develop new skills.
What Makes CHW Supervisors Unique
A CHW supervisor has unique qualities and responsibilities that set them apart from supervisors in other healthcare roles. These include:
- Community understanding and cultural competence: A CHW supervisor should have a deep understanding of the community they serve. This includes culture, customs and social dynamics. This lets them guide and support CHWs in their work addressing the unique challenges and needs of the community.
- CHW model expertise: Supervisors should really understand the CHW model, its principles and the core roles and competencies of CHWs. They need to relate to the CHW approach.
- Interdisciplinary collaboration: CHW supervisors are at the axis of the work between CHWs and other healthcare professionals. They facilitate interdisciplinary teamwork so that CHWs are integrated into the healthcare team and have the necessary support to do their job.
- Supportive and empowering leadership: A CHW supervisor’s leadership style should be characterized by support, empowerment and mentorship. They should create a safe and nurturing environment that encourages CHWs to grow both personally and professionally.
- Balancing task oversight and empowerment: CHW supervisors strike a balance between providing task oversight and empowering CHWs to exercise their judgment and make decisions. They guide and direct while allowing CHWs to address the needs of their clients and communities.
- Advocacy for CHWs: Supervisors act as advocates for their CHWs within the healthcare system and larger institutions. They champion the value and expertise of CHWs, ensuring that their contributions are recognized, respected and integrated into healthcare policies and practices.
- Trauma-informed supervision: CHWs often face challenging situations and may experience trauma or burnout. A CHW supervisor understands the potential impact of such experiences and provides trauma-informed supervision, prioritizing the well-being and mental health of CHWs.
- Performance assessment and quality improvement: CHW supervisors are responsible for evaluating the performance of CHWs. They provide constructive feedback, identify areas for improvement and support CHWs in their professional growth and development. They actively participate in quality improvement efforts to enhance the overall effectiveness of CHW programs.
Qualities and Skills of CHW Supervisors
Above are the core responsibilities of CHW supervisors. They’ll also need specific skills. Let’s review that skillset in the section below.
- Knowledge of the CHW model
- Cultural competence
- Leadership and management
- Emotional intelligence
- Problem-solving and critical thinking
- Continuous learning
1. Knowledge of the CHW Model
CHW supervisors should have a deep understanding of the CHW model, including its history, principles and core competencies. They should be familiar with the roles and responsibilities of CHWs and the impact they can have on community health.
2. Cultural Competence
CHW supervisors must have cultural competence and sensitivity to work well with diverse populations. They should understand and respect different cultural norms, beliefs and practices. This helps CHWs provide culturally appropriate care while working within the context of clients’ cultural beliefs, behaviors and needs.
3. Strong Communication Skills
Effective communication is very important for supervisors. They should be able to listen actively, provide clear instructions, offer constructive feedback and facilitate open and respectful dialogue.
4. Leadership and Management
CHW supervisors need strong leadership and management skills to oversee CHW programs. They should be able to set goals, develop work plans, delegate tasks and monitor progress.
5. Emotional Intelligence
CHW supervisors should adopt a supportive and empathetic approach in their interactions with CHWs. They should understand their challenges and provide emotional support. Emotional intelligence (EI) is a person’s ability to recognize, understand and manage their own emotions while also being sensitive to the emotions of others. A supervisor who has high EI can manage and control their emotions. This makes it easier to manage others.
6. Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking
CHW supervisors should have strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills. They should be able to analyze complex situations, identify barriers and develop strategies to overcome challenges.
7. Flexibility and Adaptability
CHW supervisors should be flexible in changing circumstances. They should be able to adjust program strategies, workflows and priorities based on community needs and challenges.
Team-building is important for CHW supervisors. They should have a collaborative approach, encouraging teamwork, shared decision-making and partnerships.
9. Continuous Learning
CHW supervisors should have a commitment to continuous learning and professional development. They should stay updated on the latest research, best practices and trends in CHW supervision. Continuous learning allows supervisors to provide relevant and evidence-based guidance to CHWs.
When you find a great CHW supervisor and put them to work as part of your program, you make an investment into improving your program and the community.