This article presents findings from an evaluation of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Jobs to Careers: Transforming the Front Lines of Health Care Initiative. The Jobs to Careers Initiative aimed to increase the quality of community health workers in community centers across the country.
The authors conducted semi-structured interviews with 229 individuals at five community health centers between 2007 and 2010, including administrators, community health workers, and community health supervisors. The authors also conducted surveys of community health workers at the beginning and end of the initiative.
- Significant barriers hamper the education, training and well-being of community health workers. These obstacles include low wages, high burnout rates, low education levels, language barriers, lack of systematic workforce development programs, and at times antagonistic relationships between community health workers and their supervisors.
- The Jobs to Careers Initiative resulted in improvements to community health workers’ financial, educational and psychological status. Sixty-seven percent of workers received a raise during the time period studied; 21 percent were promoted; and 46 percent received college credits. Both workers and supervisors reported increased job performance among community health workers.
- Keys to success included designated and paid time for workforce training classes, tuition advancement rather than reimbursement, and formal onsite education structures.
As the need for well-trained and stable health care workers increases, lessons from Jobs to Careers Initiative may be used to strengthen the community health workforce.