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How Community Health Workers and Health Center staff work together to better serve their community

Aug 2, 2021

Two years ago, Adrian Kabessa, head nurse of Naware health center in Dankpen district, welcomed 15 Community Health Workers to his health center as part of the Integrate Health Integrated Primary Care Program. Having never worked with full-time, salaried Community Health Workers before, Adrian wasn’t sure how their collaboration would work. But after being trained by the Integrate Health team, leading the Community Health Workers’ internship at the health center, and participating in intensive field supervision, he was able to see how their collaboration would be extremely beneficial to all. The adjustment was difficult, but the collaboration became easier over time because of their shared goal of saving lives.

Adrian, Head nurse of Naware Health Center

After the launch of the Integrated Primary Care Program, Adrian took on the responsibility of leading both the health center staff and the team of Community Health Workers. Early on, he wanted to strengthen the cohesion between the two teams. To do so, he led the Community Health Workers through an internship at the health center right after their training. The objective was for the Community Health Workers to strengthen their diagnostic and treatment skills. It also allowed them to strengthen their professional relationship with the health center staff and thus allow for a better understanding and a solid collaboration.  With this level of support, Community Health Workers feel comfortable referring critical cases to the health center where they are confident that staff will be ready to serve their patients.  

After the internship, the Community Health Workers began a three-month period of intensive supervision. Adrian also played an active role during this time. Adrian became increasingly involved with the Community Health Workers by shadowing home visits to supervise and coach the new Community Health Workers, along with their supervisors. 

Today, Adrian plays a critical role in ensuring a strong link between the health center staff and Community Health Workers. Weekly, Adrian holds meetings at the health center that provide an opportunity for the Community Health Workers to share their successes and challenges.  He then gives advice on how to address these challenges, such as how to deal with certain medical situations. From time to time, Adrian plans surprise supervision missions to the field to continually coach the Community Health Workers. 

A Integrate Health-supported Community Health Worker and Community Health Worker Supervisor during intensive supervision

For Adrian, Community Health Workers act as a critical link between the health center and the community. Community Health Workers provide care in the home or refer patients to the health centers when necessary.  Adrian explains that he this role is key to providing better healthcare to patients. As a nurse, he cannot leave the health center to go into the homes to serve patients. Often, he doesn’t know if someone is not coming in for care that needs it. Community Health Workers help find complicated cases and refer them to the health center, which would not be possible otherwise. 

Adrian believes that the Community Health Workers are an added value to the health center and the community. He considers the collaboration between the two teams to be as important as the care they provide. Adrian has seen their collaboration improve over time and he is very happy about it. “It was difficult at first to adjust, but the Community Health Workers are able to help us provide good quality care in for the community and that’s what counts” he said.