Cross-Train Your Team as CHWs

Cross-Train Your Team: 5 Reasons for Everybody to be a Community Health Worker

You may have only a handful of community health workers at your agency, but wouldn’t more be better? What if you could have more people who could do the kind of community engagement, outreach and health outcome improvements without hiring anyone new?

Turns out you can.

Training employees to take on a new role in your agency has big benefits. It can keep your staff happy, build capacity, and benefit patients and clients.

Healthcare organizations benefit when they cross-train their staff as a way to muscle up operations. It’s a technique often used to increase capacity among various nonclinical workers and cover care gaps. A cross-trained staff helps reduce overwhelm and optimize processes by balancing workloads.

Cross-train an entire healthcare team on the core competencies of health promoters like community health workers (CHWs), community health representatives (CHRs), and promotores to strengthen teams, improve client and patient care, and increase team efficiency.

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What Is Cross-Training?

Cross-training the team in your health program means giving everyone the core skills and 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. For example, it could be required that all incoming employees go through CHW training. Most CHW training programs are accessible, easy to integrate with existing schedules, and applicable to anyone that’s part of your health staff. Read more about creating a CHW training plan here.

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.

CHW roles include a wide range of tasks, like educating communities on risk factors, chronic disease management, and preventative care; and conducting outreach efforts to connect patients to valuable health resources. Every team can benefit from this core training.

Other basic core skills for CHWs include advocacy, care coordination, cultural responsiveness, and research skills. But CHWs undergo extensive training in what’s commonly known as Core Competencies. Read more about what Core Competencies for CHWs are here.

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

Studies show that community health workers improve community health outcomes and lower costs for patients and health systems. So just imagine what could happen if you cross-train your admin or support team as CHWs. A team that’s cross-trained as CHWs can easily promote healthier eating for managing diabetes, navigate health insurance in simple terms, or connect patients and clients to the best specialist in your network or community.

The benefits to clients expand exponentially because the whole team is able to support them. And your agency works more efficiently and maximizes 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 parental or health-related leave or even a vacation. Considering the high burnout and turnover rates among healthcare staff, this is great news for your health initiative. Plus, a more content, efficient staff means healthier, happier patients.

Promotes Respect for CHWs

CHWs are generally at the bottom of the chain 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 promotor who’s trying to prevent someone from 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 many agencies fall into the trap of having too many specialists and not enough generalists. So any gap is hard to cover and can cause a crisis. 

Cross-training means your staff can support clients and patients at any stage of their well-being — especially if that person has complex healthcare needs. Everyone on the team is able to step up in new initiatives, outreach efforts, or liaise in challenging situations.

Cross-trained staff have the knowledge to help people with various diseases and conditions in different areas they might not be familiar with. And they 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. 

On the flip side, when you cross-train healthcare employees as 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.

Job Description Template

Craft a winning job description to find the best CHW candidates for your health initiative.