Community Health Worker Career Guide

Overview

Community health workers are responsible for providing medical and health care to the entire community and its members. These workers are often chosen and selected by the leaders of the community or an organization. Community health workers usually work in teams with other workers depending on the size of the community and the health matters at stake. The basic goal of these workers is to improve the quality of life of a community through means of health, hygiene and improved living practices.

A point to note is that community health workers are not fully trained to manage all kinds of medical emergencies or health situations. With the limited training they receive, these workers are able to effectively provide essential and critical healthcare services. CHWs (community health workers) are usually assigned to a specific population with a clearly defined agenda and task which may revolve around epidemic control, disaster management, vaccination, preventative medicine, crisis control, disease prevention drive, education and so on. Many times community health workers will work closely with medical teams, primary healthcare providers and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) for specific outcomes.

This line of work is very satisfying and fulfilling for those individuals who want to help communities by working towards their betterment. The efforts exercised during the line of work can greatly help societies and future generations. It can also give you important experience in learning about communities by accurately pinpointing the common health and medical issues. You may cross paths with many people who do not have ready access to modern medical facilities. These people may include villagers, immigrants or those people without medical insurance.

Job Duties

Listed below you will find job duties that are common to most community health workers. Depending on the society’s dynamics, employer and expertise, a community health worker may be responsible for a variety of tasks.

  1. Educate and brief the sample population about the purpose, reason and benefits of the community health program or drive that you will be conducting. The population needs to be aware of what you are doing so that they can fully cooperate.
  2. Understand the needs of the patients so that you can help them develop a health plan routine tailored to their needs while addressing the major issues at hand.
  3. Coach individuals or groups of people on effective health management and illness prevention strategies. It is important to be a constant support and reminder for community members.
  4. You will need to administer and apply vaccinations, immunizations and other general disease prevention treatments. The practice of preventative medicine must be instilled
  5. Maintain a record of all patients and community members that are encountered. This record must possess complete information about patients, their problems and their concerns. This will act as a database that can allow for tracking patients
  6. At times you will have to personally follow up with patients by contacting them. This will depend on how serious some cases are. Home visits may also be needed.
  7. You should be able to conduct basic diagnostic and screening tests that will help you categorize patients in order of prioritized treatment and attention

Career Outlook

Since 2004 the community health worker industry has experienced positive growth. As a matter of fact since 2004, vacancies for community health workers have increase by roughly 24% (recruiter.com) with an average yearly growth of 4%. Furthermore, it estimated that by 2018 about 41,870 new jobs for community health workers may be filled.

States with the greatest number of community health workers are California, New York and Michigan. It is expected that demand for community health workers will also increase due to a number of factors such as preventative healthcare, quality of life and community hygiene.

Salary Prospects

The average annual salary for community health workers is $53,000 (indeed.com). As your level of experience increases and depending on your area of focus, you may be able to increase your market value and bargaining power.

Education Requirements

Generally speaking, a community health worker should have some form of post-secondary education such as a bachelor’s degree. Some programs that focus on community health care may be offered by institutes that cover a wide variety of topics that may assist you in your field work. Furthermore, some hospitals and community health centers may offer 100-hour training programs that equip candidates with the necessary skills for becoming an effective community worker. Certain training is also provided on the job under a skilled supervisor or senior community health worker.

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