Spring 2014 Community Health Worker

New Community Health Worker Training Begins Spring Term

By Chris Cunningham

community health worker studentOn April 1, Lane Community College will begin offering a community health worker training to improve access to health and social services in local underserved populations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that role of the CHW will grow 21 percent between 2012 and 2022. 

Hospitals, clinics and coordinated care organizations will be hiring CHWs, predicts the Oregon Health
Authority, which oversees the state's health programs. OHA, through the Office of Equity and Inclusion, approves prospective CHW curricula. Lane is applying for OHA's final approval.

Students in the CHW program will earn a certificate following the completion of the 120-hour curriculum, which will be offered through Lane's Continuing Education program.

Sheryl Berman, the college's Division Dean, Health Professions, describes CHWs "as community health aides, who are selected and trained and work in the communities from which they come."

She says the CHW is one of several careers that fall under the category of "traditional health workers," which includes personal health navigators, peer wellness specialists and doulas.

Berman says the CHW training is a collaborative planning effort between the college's Health Professions Division, Continuing Education and Co-op Education programs, and Lane Workforce Partnership.

Students will learn essential medical terminology, public health laws and regulations; and community resources and advocacy. They also will study and practice effective approaches for interviewing and empowering communities and individual clients.

To fulfill their requirements, CHW trainees will participate in cooperative work experiences in health and medical settings, such as Cascade Health Solutions, Oregon Medical Group, South Lane Mental Health, HIV Alliance, Mid Lane Cares, Peace Health and others. The value of the co-op experience can't be understated, says Berman, because "they will serve as the bridge to employment."

Al King, Division Dean, Cooperative Education at LCC, says using CHWs across a variety of settings "is really cutting edge stuff in the medical field," and one that will play an integral role in the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which aims to improve access to services where there is "a diminished capacity" to provide care, such as rural areas.

King says he doesn't anticipate any difficulties finding placements for the first 10 trainees.

"So far, Lane is receiving good feedback from employers in the local healthcare industry," King says. "They understand that the CHW will be key to their own operations."

Lane Workforce Partnership, which has responsibility for screening and selecting CHW candidates, will offer scholarships and on-the-job training funds to help defray costs for the first 10 candidates.

Kristina Payne, Executive Director, LWP, says her organization expects to screen approximately 30 applicants, who then will meet with a LWP career advisor. The candidates must agree to earn a career readiness certificate, to ensure that they have acquired a range of "work-ready skills."

So far, LCC and Rogue Community College are the only two community colleges in Oregon offering CHW training. Rogue's program is an 86-hour hybrid course, and Lane's program "is a face-to-face hands-on learning experience," Berman says.

LCC health faculty Cindy Manning and Jennifer Miner, who have professional backgrounds in outreach and social work and medical fields, will lead the team of CHW instructors.

Berman says the planning phase "has been a wonderful collaboration between Lane's credit and noncredit programs," and among members representing a range of health delivery and community-based organizations in Lane County.

For more information, contact Kathy Calise at calisek@lanecc.edu, or (541) 436-6111.