Multidisciplinary clinical teams with strong community linkages can engage with patient needs and address the social determinants of health. Community Health Workers (CHWs) have emerged as one such embodiment of this cultural shift in improving delivery and coordination of care to reach patient communities. However, misunderstandings of CHWs’ contributions have limited their uptake into clinical teams.
In partnership with the Southwestern Area Health Education Center, this project investigated the context and perspectives of CHW engagement in Connecticut, focusing barriers and facilitators of CHW integration into clinical teams. Through experimentation, innovation, and mutual learning, integrated, CHW-inclusive healthcare teams can begin taking the necessary steps to bridge the divide between the community and the clinic. Commitment to service should be meaningfully considered in the CHW hiring process. Being altruistic, compassionate, nonjudgmental, and service-oriented are important attributes facilitating camaraderie and trust within healthcare teams, while also enhancing CHWs’ long-term commitments to organizations. Purposively seeking out these traits during the onboarding process can foster a team dynamic anchored by CHWs mutual commitment to serving and connecting with patients. Organizations should foster mutual understanding and respect for the varied roles CHWs play. Clearly defining roles and responsibilities and demonstrating the value that CHWs bring outside of the context of clinical care can improve collaboration, encourage skills-sharing, and promote an organizational climate of respect. Organizational decision-makers should increase the visibility of CHWs and include CHWs in conversations and meetings with other clinical team members where added value can be consistently demonstrated and where mutual learning and collaboration can meaningfully occur. Healthcare organizations should critically consider how to holistically support the CHW workforce. Organizational levers that promote retention, mutual learning, networking, and management of job stress amongst CHWs can improve their ability to function effectively and contribute to a diverse team culture. The fact that CHWs not only navigate the disparate worlds of the community and the clinic but also endure the stress of managing complex intra- and extra-organizational relationships should be recognized, valued, and appreciated by organizational leadership.
Community Health and Preventive Medicine
Vyavahare, Medha; Hood, Nicole; Jiang, Lanxin; Chiu, Daniel; Ferraro, Meredith , (Preceptor); Humphries, Debbie , (Faculty Advisor); and Collins, Nicole , (TA), "From the Community to the Clinic: Building Community Health Worker-Inclusive Healthcare Teams" (2017). Practice Based Community Health Research Reports. 44.