by Michele Skalicky, KSMU-Ozarks Public Radio
A class at Ozarks Technical Community College prepares students to become community healthcare workers. And those who work in those positions can have a big impact on a person’s health.
Dr. Leigh Williams, Allied Health program director at OTC, said a community healthcare worker is a big umbrella of different positions. They do things like help patients access their medicine, help them get to doctor appointments, they take blood pressure readings, make sure diabetics have annual foot and eye exams and more.
“The goal here is we want to make sure people are staying healthy within their community and not having to be readmitted to the hospital for any chronic conditions,” said Williams.
She mentioned a woman whose tooth pain was so bad she pulled her own tooth because she didn’t think she could afford dental care. She said a community healthcare worker could have helped her to access care.
Williams said community healthcare workers are a vital part of the health care team.
They typically work in their own communities at public health departments, hospitals, clinics and more.
And Williams said they’ve been an important piece in the fight against COVID-19 doing things like testing, making sure people know how to get a vaccine and that they’re quarantining when necessary.
“Our health care team is so overrun with exhaustion right now with all the sick people that they’re having to take care of, the community healthcare worker is stepping in and making it, you know, trying to lift some of that heavy load off of our health care providers,” said Williams.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationally, the demand for community health care workers will grow by 21% between 2020 and 2030.
A class got underway in January at OTC in Springfield with the option for rural students to join online. The class meets Wednesdays from 9 to 3:30 for 16 weeks, and students who complete it are ready to find jobs. Students must be at least 18 and have a high school diploma or equivalent. Another class will start up in the fall.
Missouri managed care provider, Healthy Blue, offers a limited number of scholarships each semester. Williams said that’s because the company realizes the benefits community healthcare workers provide.
By having somebody to come in, make sure they’re getting their medications, make sure they understand their medications and preventing those readmissions, that’s saving the insurance company money as well as the hospitals and the patient, so it’s a benefit all around, said Williams.
Find out more about the community healthcare worker class at OTC by calling 417-447-8888 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story is available as part of a collaboration between KSMU Public Radio and the Springfield Daily Citizen. To see the original content, click here.