Community Health Worker Program

UVALDE, TX – The Community Health Worker (CHW) program at Uvalde Memorial Hospital has been in full swing since early September and their impact is already evident. 

Under the direction of program director Rose Garza, PhD, RN the four certified CHWs completed an eight week curriculum of 160 formalized training hours, successfully graduated from the program at the end of August, and are now acting as foot soldiers of healthcare. Each CHW promotes the health of their clients by establishing a trusting relationship that enables them to serve as a liaison between the client and the client’s healthcare services. 

The four individuals, Anita Bass, Rosie Verdusco, Samuel Lara, and Lydia Canales, act as lay members of the community and work in association with the local health care systems to serve community members with whom they share ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, and life experiences. 

The Community Health Worker is not a healthcare provider in any way but instead acts as client’s navigator, a mentor and coach, coordinator, and an advocate of a patient’s healthcare. Each of the four individuals have embarked on a journey to help patients become educated on their condition, understand their symptoms and treatment options, grasp prevention measures, and embrace the importance of health maintenance. 

The CHW will follow-up with a client post hospital visit to discuss challenges, barriers, or other issues that may be financial, medical, or even regulatory related, as the client takes care of themselves at home. It is also a CHWs responsibility to work to ensure the patient attends follow up appointments and follows physician instructions. A CHW is even likely present at follow up visits to assist the patient with asking the doctor questions, ensuring the patient gives the doctor accurate information on the status of their condition, and reviews key points made by the doctor with the client post visit. 

Since September the CHWs have provided daily support in the emergency room (ER) at Uvalde Memorial Hospital. The CHWs role in the ER is to provide informal counseling and health education to patients; most especially on chronic diseases such as diabetes. Each CHW works very closely with the hospital’s emergency room clinicians, financial counselors, and social services department to ensure the client understands the care they are receiving and has access to needed resources. The CHW also works very closely with ER staff to identify patients at risk for readmission. Once a patient is identified as a readmission risk (typically an individual with a chronic disease) the CHW works with the client to educate them on treatment and maintenance of their disease to decrease the likelihood the client would need to return to the hospital. 

In addition to their role in the ER, the hospital’s CHW team has also played a large role in the transition of care of patients. Whether a patient is leaving the hospital to go home or to another care setting such as a nursing facility, assisted living facility, home health care, or other, their successful transition is important. CHWs assist the professional transition of care team which includes registered nurses, social services, utilization review, case managers, and others by providing support, advocacy, motivational intervention, resource coordination, and enhanced patient self-management to ensure the patient’s discharge from the hospital is successful.