A Community Health Worker is a trusted member of their community who works on the ground to promote healthy behaviors, build stronger relationships between the community and health and social services, and increase accessibility to those services.
They seek to improve the quality and cultural competency of service delivery by acting as intermediaries between health services and the community.
"Community health worker" is an umbrella term that encompasses many titles, depending on the nature of their jobs and the location in which they work. Some common titles include:
Community Health Adviser
The success of their strenuous endeavors has compelled federal agencies, private institutions, and non-government organizations to create paid positions for community health care workers.
Community Health Workers are an essential part of the healthcare community because they act as a liaison between patients and the healthcare industry. There are a lot of questions that a patient might have regarding their care or the future of their well-being, and Community Health Workers help answer and act as a go-between when seeking answers to those difficult questions. Community Health Workers focus on helping their patient gain access to services that they need.
Community Health Workers also work directly with other healthcare and medical providers to coordinate and devise potential community outreach programs or outreach activities designed around improving overall community wellness metrics. These metrics help establish a guideline as to how a Community Health Worker might impact each patient because they can identify potential areas that need to improve.
For instance, if a Community Health Worker finds that their patients have a good understanding of how important physical exercise is, they might not be aware of how important proper nutrition is in that routine.
Community Health Workers will work closely with other healthcare professionals in their healthcare community to identify ways that they can create these healthcare initiatives that will be easily identifiable and relatable to their patients without overwhelming them about complex health plans or healthcare initiatives.
In addition, Community Health Workers will participate in the design, promotion, maintenance, and improvement of existing programs and initiatives. Another key part of the job description for Community Health Workers involves providing support and counseling services to their patients. Sometimes patients can struggle with the idea of taking on new healthcare initiatives or coming to terms with their current health, and they struggle with understanding all the changes they need to make in their routine.
Community Health Workers are tasked with making sure that their patients and fellow community members understand all that their current health entails and the things they can do to improve their overall health.
Community Health Workers might often work as volunteers in their local community instead of serving as a paid employee. This is due to the fact that in some cases, Community Health Workers will volunteer their advice and expertise on an infrequent basis instead of being an in-demand member of the healthcare facility or hospital.
The next thing that Community Health Workers focus on is to help patients improve their life through simple dietary changes and exercise habits. These habits don't have to be completely life-altering overnight to make a big difference. Largely, these changes are really simple and can be made in small increments and with a few simple changes in a patient's routine.
As an example, Community Health Workers can make incremental changes by swapping out a carbonated beverage with their meals to a healthier choice or to a simple glass of cold water. These are incremental changes that a Community Health Worker will help explain and demonstrate to their patients who are seeking consultation or advice.
The next part of a Community Health Worker's job description is to advise patients about some of the long-term health concerns or conditions they might have or develop if they don't change their lifestyle. Sometimes patients will respond to different things, and Community Health Workers must be capable of finding the best way that a patient will respond to different lifestyle changes.
Another part of a Community Health Worker's job description will involve educating patients about why they need to make significant lifestyle changes because it might eventually lead to self-care concerns like the development of long-term health issues or long-term health concerns like diabetes.
The next part of the job description for Community Health Workers is assisting patients with the administering of preventative treatments. This might involve the administering of vaccinations that are quite common and a patient hasn't had yet.
The next piece of a Community Health Worker's job description involves assisting patients with improving their hygiene. Part of this involves educating patients about ways they can improve their hygiene, and the importance of why maintaining their hygiene should be a focus in their life.
Community Health Workers do everything they can to help their community improve their overall wellness. To learn more about all the responsibilities that a Community Health Worker might have, continue reading the responsibilities of Community Health Workers.
Community Health Workers provide support through counseling, advocacy on individual cases or broad issues, and resources to individuals in the community.
Many work in underprivileged or marginalized communities that lack sufficient education, fluency in English, adequate healthcare services, and/or religious and cultural beliefs much different than the norm. A Community Health Worker's responsibilities don't stop there though.
The first key responsibility for Community Health Workers is that they need to focus all of their efforts to improving the health of their patients and the community in which they work in. This responsibility largely revolves around educating patients about how they can improve their lifestyle through simple dietary changes, routine exercise, and education about more foreign concepts that they're not familiar with.
The next responsibility for Community Health Workers is to advise and educate patients about what certain concerns they should be aware of as it relates to long-term health issues or diabetes. These long-term health concerns need constant care, management, and education about new techniques and procedures that patients should follow to ensure they are doing all they can to keep their ailment managed and ensure that they are on the pathway to leading a healthy life.
Another core responsibility of Community Health Workers is to help patients in their community avoid coming into contact with or contracting serious diseases or ailments like lead poisoning, substance abuse, domestic violence, or HIV. Part of the process of avoiding or coming into contact with any serious ailment or disease is through the proper identification of and education of what to look for to ensure that patients know what to do when they see it or might have come into contact with it.
Part of educating their patient base is through development of initiatives and projects that would align properly with each unique community target audience. For instance, children will respond to different forms of health initiatives than a grown adult would, and a Community Health Worker has to understand how to craft their initiatives to match their audience. The more people who adopt or follow a health initiative more closely will ultimately improve community health outcomes.
Part of this also involves working with community members to help educate them about what they can do to make sure that they are doing all they can to care for themselves and care for their families as well.
The next core responsibility is to identify what the needs of the community are and evaluate what they can do personally to solve those needs. In some cases, Community Health Workers need to take a more hands-on role with their patient involvement, and in other scenarios, a hands-off approach is the best case scenario. Community Health Workers will become experts in identifying what they need to do to identify and evaluate what they can do to directly connect with patients and improve their well-being.
The next important responsibility for Community Health Workers is to work closely with their patients who are children and might not understand some of the more complex things as it relates to their care. Part of this involves working with them to break down all the little intricacies of the care that they might not understand, and why their care plan is important for helping them learn about the conditions they might have and how they might impact them throughout their lives.
Another core responsibility for Community Health Workers is to go above and beyond as a healthcare professional. In some cases, that will also entail going to a patient's home and caring for them. Some patients might not be able to attend a hospital or healthcare facility. In addition, this might also entail that a Community Health Worker travels from one hospital or healthcare facility to another where Community Health Workers are in need.
The next thing that Community Health Workers are responsible for is to assist their patients in keeping a strict routine and regiment as it relates to their patient care plan. Some patients need constant monitoring of their care and Community Health Workers can assist patients by contacting them to make sure they are following their recommended treatment plans, receive feedback about things that they could use to follow their own plan better.
In the cases where a patient needs someone to advocate on their behalf, Community Health Workers have the responsibility of acting as a liaison between the healthcare community and the patients themselves.
The next responsibility that Community Health Workers might be asked to do is to keep accurate records of patient care plans, and then be responsible for updating them as it relates to their patient care progress.
Community Health Workers have a host of common activities and job tasks that they have to do each day, and understanding what they are will help provide some more clarity on whether or not it is a career you might wish to pursue.
• Perform Basic Diagnostic Procedures
The first common activity on the job for Community Health Workers is to perform basic diagnostic procedures. These procedures are designed to get a baseline understanding of how a patient currently is by checking for their blood pressure, heart rate, and disease screening.
• Advise Patients
The next common activity on the job for Community Health Workers is to advise patients on some of the more difficult healthcare concepts they don't understand. This might be related to their diagnosis, treatment plan, care outlook, and more. Community Health Workers are tasked with making sure that patients understand the difficult concepts and understand what they need to do to get on the pathway to a proper recovery and improved lifestyle.
• Advise Community Officials and Legislators
The next activity that Community Health Workers should expect to do each day on the job is to advise community officials and legislators. Community Health Workers are heavily involved in the various community outreach, development, and management of health initiatives designed to improve community wellness.
Community officials and legislators might have questions about what they can do to help introduce new legislation to improve overall wellness, and Community Health Workers will have a chance to provide some direct input on what they feel should take place and what kind of legislation should be enacted.
• Develop Community Programs and Initiatives
The next common activity for Community Health Workers is to develop community programs and initiatives that are designed to raise overall health and wellness in their facility and community. These programs and initiatives are designed and developed with lots of evidence and research that is often used to back up the initiatives when presented to legislators and community officials.
• Oversee Community Programs and Initiatives
After developing and implementing community programs and initiatives, Community Health Workers are then tasked with overseeing and monitoring the programs and initiatives. This process involves taking notes and implementing those notes to continually adjust the programs and initiatives to increase community adoption and outcome rate.
Community health workers must be adept at outreach methods and strategies, meaning they must be great at networking and meeting with people where they're located.
They must use strategies to bring services to underserved populations or groups. They must always capable of making accurate assessments of the community and what steps need to be taken to reach particular goals.
Aspiring community health workers must have effective communication skills and know how to speak to those they intend to serve.
They must also be highly educated on the subject matter and willing to share their knowledge to encourage changes in behaviors.
Honed problem solving skills come in handy in this position as they sometimes must find creative ways to implement programs or stretch resources.
Community health workers live in the areas they serve and can sometimes work exclusively for health care facilities native to the community.
Much of their day consists of meeting with officials at organizations and clinics, visiting homes, and otherwise connecting with the community.
Since they are often hired to support short term projects, community health workers are known to smoothly transition from one job to the other much more frequently than any other health care professional in the field. Some work from project to project, as they are available.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks down community health workers in the following industries:
Individual, family, community, and vocational rehabilitation services
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations
Hospitals; state, local, and private
Outpatient, laboratory, and other ambulatory care services
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