What do you do as a CHW?
I began working at WellShare 6 years ago as a community health worker (CHW) before being promoted to Program Assistant, and then Program Coordinator. I’ve worked on multiple projects in the past, but currently I make home visits. I work with all ethnic communities, aside from Somali- and Spanish-speaking, as part of the UCare project. This project connects UCare members with WellShare CHWs to inform them about health education and resources they may need to navigate the healthcare system. First, I call the person, sometimes with the help of a translator, to see if they would be comfortable meeting at their home or at our office. Most people I speak with are open and receptive to what I have to say, but a few require a bit more explanation about the work that we’re doing and about what a CHW is.
At the home visit, I talk with families about various ways to stay healthy and prevent illnesses, and answer any questions they may have in regards to health or health insurance. I explain the differences between using the emergency room, an urgent care clinic, or a primary care provider. I also assist people in connecting with other resources, if needed. By the end of the visit, most people seem truly thankful for the support WellShare provides in understanding and navigating the health system.
Why did you decide to become a CHW?
I became a CHW because I enjoy helping people. Before joining WellShare as a community health worker, I was a nursing assistant at a hospital in St. Paul. This work gave me exposure to the healthcare system and taught me a lot about patient needs. I noticed that many patients don’t get the sort of attention or access to information they needed to understand their situation. Doctors and nurses are so busy attending to all their patients that they don’t have the chance to sit down, answer questions, and build relationships. Through this experience, I came to realize that there’s a lack of adequate patient-physician relationships that exists in the hospital setting and how important it is to take the time to connect with patients. At the time, I didn’t know what a CHW was, but through the years I’ve seen and learned that CHWs play a very important role in their communities. They are able to provide the support and understanding that people need and build trusting relationships that ultimately improve the livelihood of the people and the communities we serve.
What has been your favorite part of being a CHW?
My favorite part of being a CHW is working with the different communities and learning about their cultures and beliefs. Through my work as a CHW, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with so many different people and gotten to know more about each of them. It has taught me a lot about how we may be different in the languages we speak or the way we dress, but how we are all seeking to lead healthy and happy lives.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
Something most people don’t know about me is that I am very spontaneous. I don’t like to plan and really enjoy the thrill of going with the flow—it’s fun! I visited 9 different countries this year. I love traveling because it gives me the opportunity to learn about different cultures, food, and people. Traveling teaches me to see beyond my own views and thoughts, allowing me to respect and appreciate other people’s way of living.
Please share a personal CHW success story.
Recently, I made a home visit to a Russian family. This person needed help finding access to a dentist, which I did—with the assistance of an interpreter. I called UCare and directed this person to a dentist in the area. He also wanted to know more about what dental procedures might be covered by his health insurance, so I explained that to him. As we talked, his wife came over and began asking questions that she had as well. I was glad to be able to help and connect them both with the resources and information they needed to get the care they were looking for.