Community health workers are frontline health workers that belong to the communities they serve. They generally belong to the same cultural groups, speak the same languages, honor the same traditions, and understand the community’s pains because they are part of the community. Community health worker is not the only name this frontline worker is known by. In Vermont, you can find other CHW titles like lay health worker, community resource coordinator, or navigator.
Although their names vary, these frontline health workers support people and make sure the population has the resources they need to live healthy lives. They can do this by implementing outreach plans, educating citizens about screenings, or promoting local services, such as vaccine efforts and testing sites.
Ahead, we explore the core skills anyone needs in Vermont to serve as a community health worker.
Not all states have standardized core competency training for CHWs. But many do have helpful guidelines that can give you a headstart as you prepare to train and certify your community health workers. CHWTraining is working on developing a list of CHW training requirements by state. Access it here.
The role of Community Health Workers in Vermont
Community health workers are a liaison between healthcare services and patients.
In Vermont, CHWs are in charge of advocacy and mediation, health education, and assistance in areas like chronic disease management. They work in places like clinics, health centers and community programs. CHWs typically help patients and clients navigate the healthcare system, insurance, transportation, and translation.
Vermont CHW Core Competencies
Communication skills for community health workers encompass aspects like language, active listening, and nonverbal communication — and they’re essential for anyone working directly with patients and organizations.
Strong communication skills help CHWs avoid conflict, solve complex situations, and navigate working in culturally diverse communities.
Interpersonal and relationship-building skills
CHWs and other frontline health workers are the first point of contact for many patients. In addition, they serve as liaisons between patients and medical and social services. In order to do a good job, CHWs must be able to establish mutually beneficial relationships with patients, stakeholders, coworkers, and managers alike. They need to foster rapport and become a trusted leader to succeed in their roles.
Service coordination and navigation skills
A large part of the work of Vermont CHWs is acting as the link between patients and services. To do this effectively, they must establish connections with local resources like clinics so patients access the necessary care.
Capacity building skills
Capacity building skills relate to the CHWs’ ability to empower their clients to take proactive action to manage their health. This starts by teaching others to advocate for themselves and showing them how to reach their goals. To achieve this, CHWs must support behavioral change. This relies on learning to identify and overcome barriers, understanding how the community’s culture impacts the patients’ behaviors and establishing a connection with the community.
Community health workers are in a unique position to see the challenges the community faces firsthand. They can bring these issues to spaces where change can be made, like the media, legislators, or service providers who can serve the community’s interests.
On a smaller scale, CHWs can speak up for clients to ensure they receive the care and attention they deserve.
Education and facilitation/coaching skills
Part of the CHWs’ magic is the ability to translate complex medical concepts into resources that are easy to digest. This way, patients can take action and improve their health outcomes without feeling overwhelmed.
Individual and community assessment skills
CHWs need to be able to identify the real needs of both individuals and the community as a whole. Assessment skills help identify the strengths, areas of improvement, and resources available, essential to address the gaps in care.
Outreach skills are the CHWs’ ability to develop and implement strategies to inform patients and stakeholders about available programs and resources. Great examples of this type of strategy include vaccine drives, blood donor campaigns, and health screenings.
Legal, ethical and professional skills and conduct
CHWs, like any healthcare worker, must adhere to strict ethical and legal standards. They need a thorough understanding of the legal implications of their work and how to handle challenges in these areas. Some aspects include maintaining confidentiality and privacy rights, respecting their scope of practice, and delineating clear boundaries with patients and providers alike.
Evaluation and research skills
Part of any health program is the evaluation and research period. CHWs need to be able to apply a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical experience to address the community’s real needs.
Evaluation and research skills include identifying issues and their causes, conducting evaluation projects, collecting data, sharing results, and presenting a compelling case to stakeholders in order to address these issues effectively.
Cultural and linguistic competency
To serve as liaisons between communities and service providers, Vermont CHWs often facilitate conversations. This can include anything from providing context about issues to literally translating information. As such, they need to understand the community and its nuances as well as the healthcare system in order to reduce disparities and improve services.