Community Health Worker Training Program of Tennessee

The Community Health Worker Training Program of Tennessee (CHWTPT) is a partnership between VUSN, the Tennessee Community Health Worker Association (TNCHWA) and the Rural Health Association of Tennessee. The program focuses on increasing the quantity and quality of certified community health workers (CHWs) working in Tennessee.

What is a CHW? CHWs are frontline public health workers who:

  • Are rooted in or very familiar with the patient community through shared life and/or health experiences
  • Improve quality and cultural competence of organization's service delivery
  • Are effective in helping patients follow through with provider recommendations
  • Motivate, teach, and help patients build wellness and other skills
  • Actively engage with patients to improve health outcomes, establishing rapport and trust
  • Provide individual and group health education around many different health topics (e.g. diabetes management, healthy pregnancy, vaccinations, hypertension)
  • Facilitate access to social services and social support
  • Communicate with health care providers on behalf of patients and the community

Selected in part for their strong interpersonal skills, CHWs enjoy solving service related and wellness problems.  They respond to patient and practice needs with community connections, organizational skills and the ability to maintain the confidence of patients and providers

Individuals interested in increasing their skillset and obtaining CHW certification for TN should apply. The program is comprised of virtual, competency-based training with an option for a field placement or apprenticeship, when applicable. 

For more information, watch the launch of our new program from January 19, 2023


Program Purpose

To build, support, and sustain a CHW training program and employment pathway for certified CHWs 



  • Recruit and train 270 trusted community members who live in Tennessee and are interested in increasing positive health outcomes in their communities.

  • Place trained community members in a variety of settings such as social service agencies, clinics, hospitals, schools and health departments across Tennessee to help them gain work skills. 

  • Certify CHWs based on training completion and on-the job skill development according to standardized competencies.

  • Train and support agencies who are interested in hiring CHWs to improve service delivery for patients/customers.



Program Components

All trainees will complete either a field placement or apprenticeship to achieve certification:

  • Field placement: trainees will complete 144 hours of training in CHW competencies and 192 hours of on-the-job instruction as an unpaid intern at a community agency.
  • Apprenticeship: trainees will complete 144 hours of training in CHW competencies and 2000 hours of paid on-the-job experience at a community agency.
  • The 144  virtual training/education hours for all trainees includes self-paced modules through an online learning platform as well as educational/practice sessions with a trainer (via Zoom)
  • Competency-based modules and learning experiences topics include: Social Determinants of Health, Telehealth, Digital and Health Literacy, Health Equity, Chronic Disease

CHW Competencies


Communication skills

Interpersonal and relationship-building skills

Service coordination and navigation skills

Capacity building and empowerment skills

Advocacy skills

Education, facilitation, leadership skills



Individual and community assessment skills

Outreach skills

Professional/organizational skills and conduct

Evaluation and research skills

Knowledge base


The CHWTPT is a collaboration between VUSN, TNCHWA and Rural Health Association of TN:

Tonya Elkins

Tonya Elkins

Program Director, VUSN

Christian Ketel

Dr. Christian Ketel

Program Evaluation, VUSN

Nikayla Boyd

Dr. Nikayla Boyd

Executive Director, TNCHWA

Barbara Clinton

Barbara Clinton

Consultant, Clinton Associates

Beth Keylon

Beth Keylon

CHW Apprenticeship Coordinator, Rural Health

Tamesha Brooks

Tamesha Brooks

Training Coordinator, TNCHWA

Brea Burke

Brea Burke

Training Coordinator, TNCHWA

Keith Waide

Isaac Waide

Senior Program Assistant, VUSN


The CHWTPT is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $3M with 0% financed with non-governmental sources.