Community Health Workers (CHWs) in Primary Care

This course is offered through UpSkill NIMAA. Click here for more information on UpSkill NIMAA.

Course Information

This course provides an overview of the role of a community health worker (CHW) in primary care. This course covers topics that are foundational to the knowledge and skills needed to perform the role of a CHW.  Thus, the course is geared toward learners who are new to the CHW role as well as those with some experience in the role. 

This course is designed to: 

  • Share an understanding of the CHW role and discuss how the role can be integrated into primary care as well as list challenges associated with the role in the United States.  
  • List several foundational concepts that are important to performing the role of a CHW and describe how these concepts manifest in the daily work of a CHW.  
  • Provide examples of how CHWs work with patients in primary care to address the patient’s needs and achieve their health care goals.  
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the core skills required to work as an effective CHW in primary care.  
  • Identify opportunities for CHW professional development and describe ways in which care team members can pursue their professional development.  

The course is comprised of 20 sessions.  Each session is expected to be one hour in length.  The course sessions are grouped into five modules:  

  1. Understanding the CHW Role (Sessions 1-3)  
  2. Foundational Concepts (Sessions 4-9)  
  3. Core CHW Skills (Sessions 10-12)  
  4. Working with Patients (Sessions 13-16)  
  5. Developing as a Professional (Sessions 17-20)  

Target Audience

This activity is appropriate for medical assistants and other care team professionals.


There are no prerequisites for enrollment in this course. However, this course is designed to benefit participants who are already engaged in health professional work, specifically primary care. Thus, it is highly recommended that participants be health professionals currently working in a primary care setting. 

Method of Instruction

This is a full-distance delivery, self-paced course. All content is delivered asynchronously via NIMAA's Learning Management System (LMS). The course is organized into 20 self-paced sessions. Each session is designed to take approximately one hour to complete with the course totaling 20 hours. Sessions build on one another and thus are sequential. The work of each session involves the participant completing a brief knowledge assessment before reviewing the content. This is followed by exploring the content in videos, slides, documents, and other materials. Participants then demonstrate what they have learned in an activity as well as share reflections and questions about the content with fellow participants. Finally, participants complete a knowledge assessment to understand what they have learned in the session.

Required Hardware/Software

This course does not have a textbook requirement. All required course content materials are included in the LMS within the lesson content for each session. Additional optional learning resources are listed in the lesson information for each session in the course syllabus. To be able to access and complete all the required course items, all participants are expected to have access to a personal computer meeting the specifications below. 

Minimum Hardware Requirements 

  • Personal computers should be five years old or newer, when possible 
  • 2.4 GHz or faster processor  
  • 4 GB or more of RAM 
  • 300 GB or larger hard drive  
  • 500MB or better video card capable of 1920x1080 resolution or higher  
  • Sound card with speakers, headphones and microphone  
  • Monitor/display video card capable of 800x600 dpi with 256 colors  

Highly Recommended

  • Printer 
  • CD-RW, DVD-RW or USB mass-storage device (recommended)  

Minimum Software Requirements

  • Operating Systems (one of the following): 
    • Windows 7 and newer   
    • Mac OS X 10.6 and newer  
    • Linux - Chrome OS  
  • Supported browsers: Edge, Safari, Chrome, and Firefox (current and first previous major releases of each browser)  
  • JavaScript enabled  
  • Minimum Internet Speed:  
    • Bandwidth of 512 Kbps (i.e. basic DSL) minimum   
    • Bandwidth of 1.5 Mbps minimum to support good video streaming  
  • Unrestricted access to YouTube and Vimeo 
Activity summary
Activity opens: 
Activity expires: 

The course duration is twenty weeks. Course enrollment takes place on an ongoing basis. Upon enrollment, participants are granted access to the course. Participants can complete the required weekly work on their schedule. Once a session is open, it remains open for the duration of the course. At the end of the course, participants are granted one additional week to complete pending work. 

  • Session 1 - CHWs Past & Present
  • Session 2 - CHWs as Members of the Care Team
  • Session 3 - CHWs as Advocates
  • Session 4 - Case Management & Care Coordination
  • Session 5 - Public Health Concepts & Approaches
  • Session 6 - Social Determinants of Health & Equity
  • Session 7 - Cultural Humility
  • Session 8 - Home Visitation & Safety
  • Session 9 - Trauma-Informed Care
  • Session 10 - Motivational Interviewing
  • Session 11 - Conflict Resolution & De-Escalation
  • Session 12 - Patient Engagement
  • Session 13 - Patient Resources
  • Session 14 - Supporting the Patient: Mental Health, Nutrition & Intimate Partner Violence
  • Session 15 - Self-Management Goal-Setting & Smart Goals
  • Session 16 - Participating in Evaluation & Research
  • Session 17 - Self-Care for the CHW - Boundaries & Bias
  • Session 18 - Participating in Evaluation & Research
  • Session 19 - Capacity Building
  • Session 20 - Current Challenges for CHWs & Career Outlook

UpSkill NIMAA courses provide contact hours that can count toward CMA (AAMA) and CCMA (NHA) recertification requirements.


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