New Community Career & Technical Institute (NCCTI) began offering its newest program to students Oct. 21 — Community Healthcare Worker. The program trains individuals to become community health workers (CHWs), who help connect patients to resources within their communities to improve their health. It’s a fast growing sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average growth rate for CHWs is 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than average. The BLS says the median annual wage for CHWs in New Jersey is $51,560.
“Our Community Healthcare Worker program is a continuation of our portfolio of courses offered under the allied health care sector,” said NCCTI Director Rodney Brutton. “We’re excited about being on the front line of one of the fastest growing jobs in the health care field.”
To help students with their job search after graduation, NCCTI is partnering with several area hospitals to provide internships and employment opportunities.
Teaching the course is Wanda Johnson, who has extensive experience training others and has served as a CHW in Newark. She said NCCTI’s program is preparing students for their careers as CHWs. This includes learning the core roles and responsibilities they will have and how to interact with patients, taking into account different cultures and building trust.
“CHWs are usually members of the community who serve as the frontline advocates for patients who reside within the same community. CHWs are the bridge between the community residents and the health care medical professionals and will be a part of a multidisciplinary team, usually with doctors, nurses and social workers,” Johnson explained. “CHWs also aid in decreasing the utilization rate of the emergency rooms and inpatient hospital stays.”
To keep patients out of the hospital, CHWs follow up with them to ensure they are complying with doctors’ instructions, attending follow-up appointments and seeing any necessary specialists. CHWs also help link patients to help for substance use and mental health disorders.
“CHWs will help patients gain a sense of independence and accountability regarding their health as they learn to care about self,” Johnson said.
Instead of lecture, Johnson conducts her class as an interactive session where she engages in dialogue with her students and gets their input on the issues they are learning about.
In addition to weekly tests, Johnson plans to have her students teach her toward the end of the course to ensure they have absorbed the material.
“If my students have the ability to teach me what has been taught in the classroom then I’ll be confident that they will successfully execute the values and lessons that were taught in the classroom out in the community,” she said.
Johnson has always used that method when training, which she has been doing since the 1990s. She has held various positions in the health care insurance industry and was always asked to train new employees. She developed a passion for training and employee development and when she saw the opening at NCCTI to become a full-time instructor, she jumped at the chance.
Johnson first became involved in the CHW sector in April 2018. She was a supervisor in charge of two CHWs. After losing one of those employees after 90 days, Johnson had to absorb her caseload in addition to her supervisory role so she has firsthand experience performing CHW duties.
She said CHWs often become close with their patients and sometimes patients disclose information to their CHW that they don’t to doctors, nurses or even social workers. Building that rapport allows the CHW to gather all relevant information and better advocate for the patient.
Johnson was born and raised in lower Manhattan. She moved to Rahway in 2015 and has been working in Newark even before the move to New Jersey.
She looks forward to continuing to develop the Community Healthcare Worker program at NCCTI and helping to train future CHWs for the important role they fulfill.
NCCTI is an accredited post-secondary career and technical institution that offers the following programs: Automotive Technician, Diesel Technician, Building Trades Specialist, Clinical Medical Assistant, Patient Care Technician, Community Healthcare Worker, Culinary Arts Specialist and Business and Computer Technologies. NCCTI also operates a comprehensive Financial Opportunity Center and Bridges to Career Opportunities Program sponsored by the local and national Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) offices. For more information, call 973-824-6484, log onto newcommunitytech.edu or visit 274 South Orange Ave., Newark.