Community Health Worker Training Modalities: Virtual vs. In-Person
Having adequate training for Community Health Workers (CHWs) is key to further advancing the CHW profession. Traditionally, CHW trainings and any required practicum hours were largely conducted in-person. Although we strive to deliver these trainings in different ways, the pandemic forced the training modalities to focus more on virtual learning to meet safety guidelines and continue serving our communities. Many training programs had to transition quickly and be flexible depending on technology access of the CHWs being trained. MHP Salud was ready for the challenge as trainings have been provided both in person and virtually for several years prior to the pandemic. Even with as much preparation as we had, however, there still have been obstacles and challenges that have required innovative solutions. The pandemic has forced an evolution in training in a way that it is now used as an advantage to reach out to more CHWs and continue providing them with necessary tools to help their communities.
Obstacles and Challenges
As MHP Salud began providing solely online training, there have been notable challenges and obstacles. As we train CHWs across the United States, many of our training participants come with different levels of technology access. Many learners may not be up-to-speed with video conference platforms; this can cause confusion or frustration when attending the virtual classroom. Another issue we’ve experienced is that some participants may live in an area that only has access to low bandwidth internet connections. A way to overcome these highlighted challenges is by planning ahead with the group being trained. A logistics call with the organization hosting the training often solves these issues as they can be prepared with the knowledge on how to use the video conferencing platforms, Learning Management Systems (LMS), and other technology requirements. Having someone available for troubleshooting issues during and prior to the virtual learning will have a positive impact on the participants, and they will be more open to future sessions.
Evolution of Training
It is understandable that some topics are best discussed in-person to allow more interaction and engagement from the participants. Selenia Gonzalez, a CHW Instructor with MHP Salud, shared her experiences with in-person and virtual training. “In-person training was more interactive, there was more participation with our activities as we got to move around. Training would last the allotted time due to the constant interaction. With virtual training, that became a challenge at first due to low participation”. Low participation in the virtual setting was an issue that correlated with participants’ familiarization with technology or at-home distractions. Selenia continued, “There was a shock in the beginning due to participation, we had to get creative in our dinamicas (ice breakers) and plan on using other formats of facilitating the sessions and creating group collaborations between the participants to keep the engagement going; this has improved over time.” One thing to keep in mind is that the trainers also had to adapt to this sudden change. Selenia also mentioned that most of the participants have adapted to video conferencing, sessions are handled smoothly, and both trainers’ and participants’ comfort level has increased.
Some certifying bodies require a certain number of practicum hours to pursue or renew a CHW certification. These requirements are generally completed as part of an in-person training. The solutions to address changes in these requirements vary depending on the certifying body. Please contact your CHW association or certifying body to see what options are available on required practicum hours.
Click here to learn more about CHW training offered by MHP Salud.