Building Knowledge, Teamwork and Workforce at the Mass. Dept. of Public Health


Project Description

The patient navigator online training program at Massachusetts Department of Public Health builds knowledge, skills and confidence in the core and health specific competencies. The hybrid training program is a sustainable option for providing the necessary cost- and time-efficient formal training for patient navigators around the state. Read more about this project from Talance, Inc.

  • Skills:

    • platform design
    • licensed curriculum
    • Blended learning
    • learning strategy
    • custom curriculum
  • Client:

    Massachusetts Department of Public Health

The patient navigator online training program at Massachusetts Department of Public Health builds knowledge, skills and confidence in the core and health specific competencies. The hybrid training program is a sustainable option for providing the necessary cost- and time-efficient formal training for patient navigators around the state. Read more about this project from Talance, Inc.

Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Women’s Health Network Training

For years, patient navigators (PNs) have played a key role in the delivery of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Women’s Health Network (WHN) Programs across the state.  Initially however, when the role of patient navigator became a requirement of WHN’s contracted clinical sites in 2008, the sites lacked clarity regarding the responsibilities and boundaries of the PN role and experienced difficulties integrating PNs into their care coordination teams.  Although the community health workers (CHWs)  in the PN role had knowledge and skills relative to the culture(s) and language(s) of the communities they served, they had a range of formal education and professional experience.  Due to this fact, coupled with the lack of availability of standardized patient navigator training, certification or credentialing in the public health and health care fields, the patient navigators were rarely used to their full capacities.

Providing Wide Access to Learners

To address these issues, the Women’s Health Network developed a 45-hour in-person patient navigator course in 2007. It was successful and improved knowledge, skill, confidence and satisfaction and acceptability of both the PNs themselves and their supervisors. The department held eight subsequent in-person courses.  Despite the effectiveness of the in-person course, it became unsustainable due the costs associated with offering it once or twice a year and the time it required the PNs to be away from the office (one day a week for eight weeks).   

The Department of Public Health came to Talance in 2011 to lead conversion of the live in-person training to a hybrid online course. The goal was to create a sustainable option for providing the necessary cost- and time-efficient formal training for patient navigators.  The 10-module online portion of the course consisting of core competency (cultural competency, communication, organization, assessment, documentation and services coordination) and health-specific competency (breast and cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease) area content is bookended by two in-person training days. 

Building Knowledge, Skills, Self-Efficacy and Job Satisfaction

The program ensure that learners have knowledge, skills and confidence in the core and health specific competencies.  It also added to patient navigators' job satisfaction, affecting performance and retention.

For each course offered to date, participants have shown statistically significant increases in knowledge and self-efficacy related to the core and health-specific course content. Participants reported the positive effect the course had on how to assess and address patient barriers.

The course fills a gap and has been successful. At least three other states have adopted and adapted the PN Hybrid Course to meet their CHW/PN training needs as there are no other models that combine the in-person and online elements.

Participants agree that the combination of in-person and online training delivery methods addresses the travel and work release-time challenges CHWs often encounter when trying to attend professional development opportunities while not losing the personal interaction piece that is vital to CHW training.

Mean Knowledge Composite Scores Pre-test versus Post-test by Course

Strength in Teams

The program also strengthens care coordination teams by providing PNs with role clarity and boundaries and by providing the knowledge and skills that are necessary in order to perform the navigator role satisfactorily.  Course participants and their supervisors noted an increase in confidence in interacting with team members, particularly providers. 

Skilled Workforce Development

The course builds on the program's progressive success in addressing the training needs of their patient navigators at a time when standardized community health worker and patient navigator education programs is not readily available.  The development and implementation of the hybrid course met the training needs of a specific group of individuals but has also contributed to moving the CHW and PN workforce development agenda forward.

Quotes from Massachusetts Department of Public Health

I love this course. It was my first time doing an online course and it gave me a much better picture of what doing an online course was like. I was really afraid to start it so it was awesome in that sense.”

– Patient Navigator

***

“It was a real course. They [patient navigators] were impressed this was a real course. This is something substantial that they’ll have to put time into.”

– Patient Navigator Supervisor

***

 “Now I know a little bit more about everything, as opposed to just my niche of pediatric care, so I feel more confident because of that.”

– Patient Navigator