Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, it has become increasingly evident to the public just how critical the role of our nation’s health education specialists has become. The CHES® and MCHES® certifications were deemed “essential workforce programs” that the support and growth of our nation’s public health workforce in this time of crisis, and testing for NCHEC’s certification exams will resume June 1, 2020.
NCHEC is extremely proud of the many health CHES® and MCHES® who serve as essential personnel in the continual fight against this global pandemic. They have assumed critical roles in the identification, control, and assurance of the needs of individuals and communities. They advocate fiercely for public protection measures, and support many other critical health education and health behavior measures during these very difficult times. As our nation moves forward in addressing and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of a competent certified health education workforce will be as significant and essential as ever before.
The following interview is part of a new series to highlight the amazing work efforts of our credential-holders.
NCHEC: What is your current job title and where do you work?
Brittany: I am the Associate Director of Education at the Center to Advance Palliative Care (an affiliate of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai) in New York City.
NCHEC: What are your job duties as Associate Director?
Brittany: I manage the program operations team within the Education Department, responsible for developing and delivering virtual training events for more than 85,000 health professionals. I am co-chair of the planning committee for the annual CAPC National Seminar, which is attended by more than a 1,000 health professionals each year. My particular area of focus on this committee has been the question of how palliative care teams can address health equity and the social determinants of health to improve care quality for all seriously ill patients. I also lead a new initiative aimed at understanding and addressing the root causes of inequity in access to the highest quality of care for racial and ethnic minority patients diagnosed with a serious illness.
NCHEC: How have these responsibilities changed as a result of COVID-19?
Brittany: We have pivoted our online learning events to incorporate topics that support palliative care teams in the midst of the pandemic. I serve as a project manager of the open-sourced CAPC Rapid Response Toolkit that includes resources on communication, symptom management, telehealth, resilience, patient and family support materials. To-date, the resources have been downloaded and accessed more than 74,000 times. One of my proudest contributions to the toolkit is a one-pager on Equitable Palliative Care Access in COVID-19.
NCHEC: Do you think your role as a certified health education specialist may be permanently altered due to this worldwide pandemic?
Brittany: Absolutely! I believe our advocacy and communication skills will be seen as invaluable post-pandemic. There will be a critical need for the creation of new/enhancing existing coalitions to advocate for essential infrastructure to be responsive to emerging health threats. Our health education community will be called upon in various ways to provide expert consultation, assistance, and guidance to various health groups, organizations and systems.
NCHEC: Do you feel that you and your organization have gained increased recognition for the critical role of health education specialists in public and community health?
Brittany: Yes, absolutely. When this first began, I was unclear about the contribution of my employer and myself as a public health professional/health educator. I thought the focus was primarily on frontline clinicians and infectious disease epidemiology. Over the last few weeks, it has been clear that there are roles for all of us who care about public health, and we need to remember what our roles are. My role is about ensuring conversations about equitable access and quality remain at the forefront and is an included priority in the midst of the crisis. Through the development of the toolkit, my organization has been recognized and seen as a thought leader by other well-known entities such as the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). Moving forward, there will be a need for more thoughtful collaboration and innovation to ensure a healthier and safer future for us all.