Community Health Worker Careers in Virginia: A Comprehensive Overview

Community Health Worker Careers in Virginia: A Comprehensive Overview

Posted on Apr 30, 2024

Healthcare and medical professionals excel at providing patient care to individuals, treating illnesses, health conditions, and more. But healthcare is not a one-size-fits-all system. Addressing health conditions may require different approaches depending on the patient’s socioeconomic and cultural background. Even reaching the right people in the first place requires a strong understanding of the underlying community.

That’s where community health workers come in! As advocates for often underrepresented communities, they help patients navigate the healthcare system and better understand their treatment plans.

Read on to find a comprehensive overview of community health worker careers, including:

• What Is a Community Health Worker?

• The 4 Core Responsibilities of Community Health Workers

• Community Health Worker Demand in Virginia

• How to Become a Community Health Worker

• Community Health Worker Job Titles

If you’re ready to take the leap, browse our Education page to find the right community health worker program for you!

What Is a Community Health Worker?

A community health worker (CHW) is a lay member of a community that provides basic health and medical care to members of underprivileged communities. CHWs are considered to be frontline public health workers who liaise between healthcare systems and the communities they represent.

CHWs typically share ethnicity, language, and/or relevant life experiences with their communities which allows them to advocate for underserved or underrepresented demographics. CHWs also offer interpretation and translation services, they provide culturally appropriate health education and information, give informational counseling and guidance on health behaviors, and advocate for individuals and their health needs.

Common populations served include:

• Minorities

• Refugees or immigrants

• Homeless individuals

• Low-income populations

• Rural communities

• Marginalized groups

Mental health and substance abuse populations

The 4 Core Responsibilities of Community Health Workers

Community health workers play a key role in making community-focused health campaigns more effective. Their goal is to improve community access to critical healthcare services. While community health workers can wear many hats, their core responsibilities fall into 4 general categories:

1. Patient or Peer Advocacy

Community health workers support communication between patients and healthcare workers. That ranges from full translation services to helping patients fill out forms and navigate complex situations. This ensures that patients have full access to healthcare resources and helps mitigate subconscious biases.

Overall, community health workers prioritize their patients’ best interests, ensuring they receive culturally appropriate healthcare, medical, and social services.

2. Community Health Education

Community health workers drive public health efforts by raising awareness of community-relevant diseases and health issues such as obesity, substance abuse, sex education, and more. This is done through a combination of workshops, on-site meetings, and additional resources.

Promoting healthy habits within specific communities can help reduce strain on the healthcare system. Preventative wellness programs and regular screenings allow medical professionals to catch issues early on, lessening the need for emergency services down the line.

3. Community Outreach

Community health workers focus on identifying and building relationships with underserved or vulnerable demographics. This ensures that community health, wellness, and social programs reach the intended demographic.

Cultivating trust between communities and healthcare systems is also essential to getting patients to seek lifesaving healthcare services.

4. Case Management or Coordination

Some community health workers focus on case management, coordinating with patients to ensure that they follow prescribed treatment plans or health recommendations. Workers may opt for informal check-ins, informal counseling, and even home visits. They may also help patients find resources to improve their well-being.

Community Health Worker Demand in Virginia

Community health workers are in high demand across the nation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects community health worker roles to increase by 14% from 2022 to 2032, which is faster than average compared to other occupations.

The average salary for a community health worker in Virginia is about $50,000 but will vary depending on location, education, and experience.

How to Become a Community Health Worker

Education Requirements

Most employers require at least a high school diploma or equivalent for entry-level community health worker roles. Positions with more complex responsibilities may require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in social work or a healthcare-related discipline. If you plan on working for the federal government or a public health agency, you will need to obtain at least a master’s degree in a related field.

Training & Certification

Many employers offer on-the-job training, mentorships, and volunteer-based internships to help new community health workers gain experience.

You can also obtain a certification to become a Certified Community Health Worker (CCHW) by completing 60 hours of core competency training, 2,000 hours of experience (about 1 year of full-time work), and a 120-hour supervised practicum in relevant community health worker domains.

A CCHW certification is optional but can help distinguish your resume as you pursue future career opportunities.

Specialization & Future Growth

Community health workers are exposed to elements of social work, behavioral and mental health support, and clinical healthcare roles. As a result, many community health workers use their position to launch into other careers.

Clinical Roles – Community health workers may opt to return to school to pursue nursing, medical technician, dietician, licensed counselor, and other healthcare-related roles. Clinical careers can involve direct patient care or research.

Public Health Roles – As you gain experience and advanced degrees, you can pursue roles at public health agencies to run community health education programs for vulnerable demographics.

Social Work Roles – If you want to expand your case management skills, you may transition into social work with additional education. Social workers help individuals and families overcome problems they may be facing. In the process, they find ways to better integrate individuals with their communities.

Program Coordinator Roles – On the administrative side, program coordinators focus on planning, implementing, and evaluating public health programs. Their skills revolve around logistics and overall program management. Program coordinators and directors typically do not interact directly with the community.

Community Health Worker Job Titles

Community health workers often work in hospitals, public health departments, non-profits, and community organizations. When searching for community health worker jobs, you may encounter different titles depending on the employer.

Use our list to find relevant community health worker roles on job boards. It can help to search based on certification (CCHW) or responsibilities to find similar roles.

• Promotor(a)

• Community Health Representative

• Health Navigator

• Health Advocate

• Peer Advocate

• Case Manager

• Care Manager

• Care Coordinator

• Community Outreach Coordinator

Finding Community Health Worker Jobs in Virginia

Community health workers are key to bridging the gap between healthcare services, social resources, and vulnerable communities. Not only do they increase access to critical services, but they also help communities that may have faced trauma in healthcare systems to regain trust in the process.

Additionally, becoming a community health worker exposes you to several related fields such as healthcare, social work, and behavioral health. Use your experience to jumpstart your career in other fields!

Curious about community health worker roles? Find open positions in Virginia using On Board Virginia’s job board!