WA building a common core for certifying health navigators in 2015

Academic representatives from University of Washington and community colleges throughout the region met at the Washington State Health Advocates Association (WASHAA) annual meeting Nov. 14 to discuss how Washington is preparing its workforce to incorporate health advocacy skills.

“Yes, it’s coming; get prepared,” said the advisory panelist, Workforce Projects Director Cindy Burman-Woods from Whatcom Community College of the growing trend in patient navigation, care coordination, and health care advocacy as an emergent career path.

The focus of Affordable Care Act legislation on quality of patient care and the proliferation of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in the state have opened formal employment opportunities in hospital and clinic networks for care coordinators, according to Michelle Giovannozzi, Clark College Corporate and Continuing Education Director.

“This is a line of work that is emerging, but we have to go back to the employers and ask, what exactly is this role? Then assess the needs of the industry and align the educational programs with this need. We didn’t want to create a training program for one siloed position, but rather look at it as a career pathway across the industry,” said Giovannozzi.

Nursing students at the UW Bothell / Source: nursing.uw.edu

Nursing students at the UW Bothell / Source: nursing.uw.edu

Clark College, Edmonds Community College, Highline Community College, Seattle Central Community College, Yakima Valley Community College, Whatcom Community College, and University of Washington Bothell are part of the dialogue created by a Hospital Employee Education & Training (HEET) grant for establishing a common core of instruction in patient navigation, coordination, and advocacy for incumbent workers embedded in hospital networks and clinics.

Courses at UW Bothell will be tailored specifically as electives for RN-BSN or MN students. The UW program anticipates that students in these programs will already have some education or professional experience in health care or social services.The community college curriculum, on the other hand, will be open to both clinical and non-clinical students who are not required to have prior professional experience. The focus of the HEET grant is to train incumbent healthcare workers, but the courses are also open to community stakeholders.

Here are the 2015 launch dates for programs in the region:

Clark College – Spring 2015
Edmonds Community College- Winter and Spring 2015
Highline Community College- Winter and Spring 2015
Seattle Central Community College – 2015-2016
Yakima Valley Community College – Spring 2015
Whatcom Community College – Winter and Spring 2015

“While [Washington] is leading in a lot of areas in organizing health advocacy, we’re just coming up in the academic programs to support that. As advocacy becomes a bigger issue, academic programs will have to adapt around it,” said Burman-Woods.

The HEET grant researchers are gathering information to determine what organizations in Washington state are working on certifying patient navigation, care coordination and advocacy. The grant ends in June 2015. As more academic institutions join the conversation, researchers and educators will continue to ask questions about scope of practice, state laws and regulations, and competencies of this emerging work force.

WASHAA is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about health advocacy, educating consumers about health advocacy and connecting patients to resources in the state. For more information go to: www.washaa.org.