CHWs are improving health, bridging gaps, changing lives

By NAILAH MUHAMMAD

It isn’t odd to think of doctors and nurses first when we think of patient and individual care. They are indeed right there in hospitals and clinics helping citizens of all ages with their day to day health concerns. However, there are many other healthcare professionals that have a special place “on the ground” helping people in ways that have proven transformative in many people’s lives.

One can even say that they are hidden in plain sight in the back offices of clinics, community centers as well as in the community connecting with clients and their families right in their homes. They are called Community Health Workers, frontline health workers who have a keen understanding of the community they serve. The trusting relationships they build with families and also community health and social service organizations enable them to serve as a liaison to facilitate referrals to the organizations that will benefit community members.

The Community Health Worker certification is offered at Cuyahoga Community College. In order to obtain a certification, students must complete 106 hours of classroom training and 130 hours of field/clinical service work. They must also pass a background check and complete an Ohio Board of Nursing Application. Classes may be offered during the day, evenings, or even on weekends. Field service work are also available during the day as well as weekends and evenings.

Community Health Workers (CHWs) earn an average salary of just over $40,000 a year, according to multiple career web sites. Top-performing CHWs with experience can make more than $68,000 a year.

While Community Health Worker is the official title, you may encounter these community connecters under many different names such as but not limited to Advocate, Community Health Advisor, Community Health Representative, Health Coach, Maternal/Infant Health Outreach Specialist and more. They are hired by managed care plans, hospitals, community organizations, federally qualified health centers, and even health departments.

“They are advocates, educators, they are promotors, they are Community Health Workers,” says Marquita Rockamore,” MAML, GCDs, C-CHW, Director of Health Industry Solutions at Cuyahoga Community College. “They work in a number of ways to improve the overall health of the community.”

Rockamore is the instructor for the Community Health Worker class.  She is a hardworking advocate for not only the members of the Community and the students she teaches, but also to the Community Health Workers themselves. She conducts trainings and forums to ensure CHW’s are well informed and educated on how to best serve their clients, but also how to ensure workers are caring for themselves.

Taylor Starke, CHW, a recent graduate of Ohio University has also completed her CHW certification classes at Tri-C this past November with Rockamore. She explained the positive impacts she is already experiencing from the training.

“I learned things in the CHW class that I did not learn in the traditional college setting.” Stake explained. “Oftentimes when people reach out, they are looking for help and are going through a difficult time. I learned empathy and how to speak to them through the complexities of the circumstances they may be experiencing at the time.”

Starke is currently completing an externship at Cleveland Medical Center at University Hospitals main campus. “The externship is great. It is really helping me build my confidence and I have really enjoyed building the relationships and gaining the trust of the people who reach out for help,” she says. “Mrs. Rockamore is an amazing teacher. She answered every question. She even extended her services if we need help or guidance after the completion of the training class.”  

Jeanette Sutton, CCHW and Home Visitor with Moms and Babies First with Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services has been doing community health work for a number of years and enjoys her work as a Community Health Worker. She explains that while it is demanding work, it is rewarding as well.

“I truly enjoy seeing the growth of the families that I work with especially when they reach a goal like improved budgeting practices as they prepare for their baby or enroll in school.” says Sutton. “Seeing them go the extra mile for themselves makes it all worth it.”

“There is such a need for Community Health Workers. Even before the pandemic, the need for Community Health Workers was on the rise,” says Rockamore.” There are those that are called to help community but may not be aware of the career options that are accessible and available and in high demand. For more information on the Community Health Worker training program at Cuyahoga Community College, contact Marquita Rockamore, MAML, GCDF, C-CHW, director, at 216-987-2942, or at marquita.rockamore

Here’s a link to a video about the Community Health Worker program and Rockamore: https://youtu.be/MIgJN8IquBU

Here is a link to more information about the Tri-C Community Health Worker program: https://www.tri-c.edu/workforce/health-care-training/community-health-worker.html

Muhammad was a Fall 2021 semester student in MJS 2010, News Writing, at Cuyahoga Community College. She can be reached at nailah2680@outlook.com

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