Living in a rural area like the Eastern Shore has its benefits and challenges. Easy and convenient access to healthcare and community resources is one of those challenges. People in Somerset County, like other rural counties on the Shore, may have to travel over an hour to a regular follow up appointment with a doctor or to get lab work done. Overcoming these healthcare obstacles can be quite the challenge when facing them alone.
Peninsula Home Care in partnership with Peninsula Regional Medical Center is going above and beyond as the first home care agency in the region to offer community health workers as advocates to community members by providing support in everyday health decisions.
“While community health workers do not replace our team of skilled nurses and therapists who treat patients in the home, they add another level of care by serving as a liaison between healthcare, social services/resources and the community,” said Nancy Bagwell, Peninsula Home Care branch director. “We want the community to know that they do not have to be a home care patient or homebound to receive care and support from a Community Health Worker. CHWs are available at no cost, to anyone in the community with a health-related need.”
“These are lay individuals with a strong connection to their community,” said Lisa Widmaier, Community Health Worker Trainer, Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center. “They are leaders in their church, volunteers in local non-profits and someone with the same life experiences as the clients they are serving. This provides a sense of safety and trust for the community health worker who is entering the client’s home and personal space to provide care.”
Over the last year, through a cross learning effort, PRMC has engaged Peninsula Home Care, the Wicomico County Health Department and MAC Incorporated (the Area’s Agency on Aging) in efforts to reduce readmissions to the hospital and provide proactive and preventative care in the home.
“Hospitals in the state of Maryland are fully capitated,” said Karen Poisker, PRMC’s vice president of population health. “More patients in beds does not generate more money. In order to maintain the health and wellness of our community and reduce the number of readmissions, the hospital is following an innovative model focused on education, goal setting and personal care and have already measured dramatic positive responses and results.”
That’s because of people like Shawntell Mitchell, one of three Community Health Workers deployed by Peninsula Home Care who is currently providing care to 81-year old Ms. Francis, a client who was referred for CHW services by her doctor.
“I look forward to visits from Shawntell,” said Ms. Francis. “It breaks up my day and gives me someone to talk to. She helps by keeping an eye on me. Makes sure I am doing what I can on my own to stay as healthy as I can.”
“I ask her a lot of the same questions every time I visit her,” said Shawntell Mitchell. “How are your legs feeling, did you check your blood pressure today, what did you eat today, did you drink your Ensure and plenty of water? I enjoy spending quality time with her. She can call me and I can call her anytime. She makes my day.”
Mitchell underwent sixteen, three hour sessions of training provided by the Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center based in Cambridge, Maryland. Lisa Widmaier, a community health worker trainer administered the training to all three Peninsula Home Care community health workers from March to May of 2015.
“We cover everything from public health concepts, advocacy, health literacy and safety to diffusing conflict and how to promote behavior change in clients,” said Widmaier. “We train them to use a technique called motivational interviewing. You can’t tell a client what to do but you can guide them to make good decisions. We also provide self-care for the CHW’s through stress management and time management.”
In addition, each CHW is responsible for shadowing PHC nurse navigator, Kelly English in the field for an extended period of time before serving patients on their own. English’s training is focused on health related scenarios such as chronic disease self-management and fall prevention.
The three Peninsula Home Care CHW’s are provided through a doctor’s referral at no charge and available to provide services and support to community members in Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties. People receiving services are not required to be identified as home bound or fit the same criteria as home care patients. For more information, call Peninsula Home Care at 410-543-7550 or visit peninsulahomecare.com.