To help those considering a role as a Community Health Worker, we asked business leaders and experienced public health workers this question for their best advice. From developing compassion and empathy to preparing for unpredictable funding, there are several pieces of advice that may help those when considering a career in Community Health.
The only advice I would give to anyone who aspires to be a community health worker is to develop compassion and empathy. When it comes to the required knowledge, skills, and education for being a health worker, you will surely do well given your passion and careers goals. But what you will need the most to work as a community health worker is the compassion to serve people and an empathetic attitude. We could understand it pretty well with the example of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We saw how health care workers are being hailed in all countries as front-line workers and saviors. Why do you think these people are willing to risk their lives in the face of a contagiously fatal virus? The answer lies in compassion and that has to be the underlying emotion when you step out each day as a health worker. You will be working for the community and not for handsome salaries but your compassion will drive great satisfaction. Compassion has to be at the center of this career choice.
- Jessica Robinson, The Speaking Polymath
Aside from providing therapy and consultations for clients, community health workers need to document every single client interaction like phone calls, emails, and referrals along with evaluations, release forms, and so on. This can be quite overwhelming when you're already juggling multiple clients at once and it's something to keep in mind before committing to the role.
- Riley Beam, Douglas R. Beam, P.A.
Make sure you're a people person. A career as a Community Health Worker requires working with people in the community and educating individuals about health and wellness. Community Health Workers also relay information when it comes to a public health emergency and dispense information about community health initiatives. It is an important position, and to be the most effective in it, a Community Health Worker really needs to just love people.
- Sarah Pirrie, Healist Naturals
Being a CHW can be highly demanding. There are a few things to keep in mind when considering starting this kind of work. First of all, ask yourself if you are ready to work with people, and furthermore to help them constantly. If you feel this is your calling and are convinced it would suit you well, go for it. I want to give you one piece of advice you might find very helpful - follow this rule of setting boundaries in terms of helping people if it requires you to sacrifice your resources. Remember to put yourself first. Without the rescuer, no one will be rescued.
- Magdalena Sadowska, PhotoAiD
CHW's should be aware that their jobs are often subject to fatigue, feelings of isolation, and other negative factors, like the lack of recognition for their work. For this reason, it is important for CHW's to focus on their own well-being. CHW's should find support networks that can encourage them in the midst of challenging work. Online communities can provide community health workers with a sense of connection to others who face similar challenges. The majority of CHW's describe the benefits of online communities for their mental health and how they can provide a safe place for them to discuss their concerns. This is particularly helpful because many do not have family or friends in their community and feel isolated. Online communities also provided a way for community health workers to connect with others who had similar experiences. Finally, online communities offered community health workers an opportunity to get some relief from the daily demands of their work.
- Ben Miller, Focus On Digital
As a Community Health Worker, you will work with people with different backgrounds and personal experiences. That's why you should develop your emotional intelligence skills to manage your emotions effectively and know how they impact your close environment. High emotional intelligence can help you empathize with others, understand their unique circumstances, and handle conflicts when necessary. However, don't worry if you don't know exactly where to start. Your role is not to know all the answers, but to look for solutions. In case of doubt, you can always reach out to other managers or your HR team to get more comfortable, finding effective ways to show empathy towards people you work with.
- Peter Bryla, Zety
CHWs should be required to employ their newly learned skills in supervised practice sessions so that they become more comfortable with them. In order to improve the computer abilities of CHWs, I would advise them to use different methods including the use of computers in daily routines to become more proficient with computers. In the beginning, CHWs used handwritten notes to record their work. After getting used to taking notes, CHWs were required to input customer information into an electronic data collection system. Although clinical health workers (CHWs) initially used paper copies of data spreadsheets, they are now expected to take notes, collect data, and document their work using computers or tablets.
- Sumit Bansal, TrumpExcel
Individuals working in healthcare should always put the patient first. If one is doing it for money or prestige, then he/she is doing it for the wrong reasons. I try to have my employees imagine that the patient is their grandmother or father. The work we perform should be at a level that we would perform if we were taking care of a member of our family.
- Ryan Majchrzak, Assisted Living Locators Bel Air-Elkton-Chestertown
I've been there and done that. While a career as a Community Health Worker can be gratifying and empowering, you MUST prepare yourself for unpredictable funding. You will only have government spend to work with and government spending is very fickle. When powers change, so does the spending direction. So, always have a plan B in place with regards to funding. I think that would be my #1 piece of advice for those thinking about pursuing CHW as a career. Best of luck!
- James Morrison, Tinnitus and You
Learn more about the Community Health Worker program in partnership with Chicanos Por La Causa.