Frequent use of Emergency Departments (ED) by super-utilizers - account for between 21% to 28% of all ED visits.1 Super-Utilizers, may lean on emergency departments due to lack of health insurance, financial limitations, or lack of knowledge of available healthcare options. As health care systems work to reduce the use of emergency departments for non-emergencies, one strategy that has proven to be effective is the integration of Community Health Worker (CHW)s.
Each month, we will highlight the journey of individuals' professional development into roles within and outside of the CHW profession. The first story is about Maria's journey from CHW to dietitian/nutritionist. The second features Carlos, who also became a dietitian/nutritionist, but unlike Maria, he did not start out as a CHW. This story is included to illustrate how the CHW profession builds skillsets that are desirable across industries. It is also included to illustrate the key differences between the CHW profession and other careers in related fields.
Aaron worked as a CHW at a small non-profit that focused on providing preventative oral care. His role included duties like outreach, health education, and cultural facilitation between patients and dentists. He had also naturally started leading his team and trained all incoming CHWs.
Each month, we will highlight the journey of individuals' professional development into roles within and outside of the CHW profession. The first story is about Marco's journey from CHW to Eligibility Specialist. The second features Ricardo, who also became an Eligibility Specialist, but unlike Marco, he did not start out as a CHW. This story is included to illustrate how the CHW profession builds skillsets that are desirable across industries. It is also included to illustrate the key differences between the CHW profession and other careers in related fields.
The first story is about Emilia's journey from CHW to Certified Nursing Assistant and the second about Vanessa's journey from CHW to Registered Nurse. The third story features Dante, who also became a Registered Nurse, but unlike Emilia and Vanessa, he did not start out as a CHW. This story is included to illustrate how the CHW profession builds skillsets that are desirable across industries.
Elisa worked as a CHW at Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) for five years. In her role, Elisa went out into the community to visit families whose children had been diagnosed with asthma. The program was very successful in improving health outcomes for patients and as a result, the FQHC began looking to expand the program. The program director was hiring more CHWs and asked Elisa if she would like to become a trainer to guide the new hires. She accepted and started her role as a CHW trainer.
The idea of Community Health Workers as partners within clinical care teams has been gaining attention because of their effectiveness at reaching diverse populations in underserved communities to promote health initiatives. CHWs are by design, perfectly situated to perform health activities in hard-to-reach areas because they speak the language and come from the communities they serve.
Jose started working as CHW at a children's hospital after completing his associate degree in psychology. He had always lived in a rural area that was predominantly Latino. He had a great relationship with the community and always wanted to find a meaningful job where he could help the community. He took the role as a CHW to fulfill his mission to assist the community but did not see himself staying in the profession forever. The role also required most work to be done out in the community and he wanted an office position. Before becoming a CHW he had considered becoming a case manager.
Whenever I talk about grant writing, someone always wants to know what the “magic bullet” is to secure sustainable funding. I wish it were that simple - in general, grant writing requires a special slurry of project management, relationship building, digging into the data, and storytelling. And grant writing for Community Health Worker (CHW)-led programs? That presents its own set of unique questions.
Oliver worked as a CHW for many years at an organization that specializes in providing financial assistance. His role as a CHW involved providing financial education for individuals in the community. He enjoyed many aspects of his position, especially holding education sessions. However, he disliked the long drives to various locations to conduct each session and the lack of autonomy over the material covered. One day, during a conversation about considering a possible career change, Oliver's friend recommended he look into becoming a teacher.