State Program Available to Train Community Health Workers

Community Health Workers (CHWs) play an integral role in health care organizations by working towards health equity, addressing clinical and nonclinical patient needs, and reducing provider burden. CHWs are often employed by social service agencies, clinics, hospitals, schools and other care settings to provide crucial care to those with limited access to medical resources.  

Over the past several years, VHAN’s CHW pilot program has produced exceptional outcomes for patients at Gallatin Women’s Clinic. Now a new opportunity is available for more VHAN practices to take advantage of the services of CHWs. 

In 2023, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing received a $3 million Health Resources and Services Administration grant to create a certification and training program for CHWs in Tennessee. The initiative, formed in partnership with the Tennessee Community Health Worker Association and Rural Health Association of Tennessee, is called the Community Health Worker Training Program of Tennessee (CHWTPT).  

The CHWTPT is free for trainees, who will receive a $7,500 stipend to offset associated costs, such as childcare or disruption to employment. Participants must complete some virtual training as well as in-person, on-the-job training with a mentor. Up to 90 people each year will be trained as CHWs to help their communities.  

There are two tracks to choose from, depending on your practice’s needs: 

  • Field Placement: Managed by the Tennessee Community Health Worker Association, this track requires 144 hours of online training, 192 hours of on-the-job learning (about 6-12 weeks), no salary requirement and a $7,500 stipend ($3,750 for online training hours and $1,250 every 64 hours for on-the-job learning).  
  • Apprenticeship: Managed by the Rural Health Association, CHW apprentices must complete 144 hours of online training, 2,000 hours of on-the-job training (about one year), a set salary, and a $7,500 stipend ($3,750 for online training hours and $312.50 every 166 hours during on-the-job learning. 

VHAN’s Community Health Worker Pilot 

VHAN has witnessed firsthand the impact a CHW can have in a clinical setting. In 2019, VHAN launched a pilot program with CHW Crystal Guzman to improve access to care and resources for obstetric patients at Gallatin Women’s Center (GWC) in Gallatin, Tennessee. GWC has a large prenatal patient population with approximately 350 babies born annually. The pilot was designed to help with resource referrals and interventions for patients who need assistance with access to health care, physical and behavioral health support, and social determinants such as homelessness, food insecurity and unemployment. 

After two years, the program produced impressive results, including a reduction in missed prenatal appointments, better success with breastfeeding, a 90% increase in Edinburgh perinatal/postnatal depression screenings and a 7% reduction in emergency department utilization. 

Guzman serves on the Advisory Board for the Tennessee Community Health Worker Association and assists with new CHW trainees. If your practice is interested in participating in the program and working with a CHW in your clinic, please learn more about the CHWTPT program here. You can also view an orientation video about the Field Placement option, and see this link to apply. The VHAN team will support your practice manager or physician champion by assisting with orientation, mentorship and tracking success data to report the progress of the trainee to the CHWTPT liaison. 

If you have questions about the CHWTPT, please contact Christian Ketel at or Isaac Waide at

Learn more about the way CHWs are transforming health outcomes across Tennessee in this miniVHAN podcast episode, “The Role of Community Health Workers in Tennessee’s Health Care Transformation.” Listen to the full episode here. For more information about CHWs in Tennessee, check out the Tennessee Community Health Workers Association.

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