When a friend first told Analuz Torres about a health navigator job at Benton County Health Services, she didn’t think she was qualified. Despite a wealth of experience advocating, interpreting, translating and breaking down communication and cultural barriers for her family and friends in the California farming community where she grew up, she couldn’t imagine doing it as a career.
“Do I really think I can do this?” she questioned herself.
At that time, Torres was working on her bachelor’s degree and didn’t think she had enough education to be a health care team member. But despite her reservations, Torres applied and got the job. When she started working for Benton County, she did outreach and enrollment for the Oregon Health Plan. She picked up the terminology and moved to working in care teams.
Fast-forward three years, Torres is now a training coordinator for the Tri-County Traditional Health Worker Training Hub where she teaches others to use their lived experience to become community health workers.
A 2018 Delivery System Transformation pilot project from Intercommunity Health Network Coordinated Care Organization serving Benton, Lincoln and Linn counties, helped to establish the Training Hub where Torres is now a leader. It supports many different types of health and community agency workers, including birth doulas, community health workers, health navigators, peer support specialists and peer wellness specialists.
“In the training, we focus on motivating individuals so they can make this change in their communities,” Torres said.
Because she overcame uncertainty, Torres can relate to many people in the training.
“A lot of them have been doing this all of their lives,” she said. “They’ve just been doing it without getting paid.”
As training coordinator, Torres interacts with community agencies to recruit trainees and facilitate new partnerships. Collaborators include agencies and organizations from education, addiction and recovery, housing and homelessness, as well as health and social services.
Torres recently completed her bachelor’s degree in public health and is beginning a master’s in public policy program this fall. But she emphasizes there are no education requirements for the training program. And with training and experience, there are many possibilities for job opportunities and growth.
“The heart of a community health worker is to help out the community. That’s all you need,” she said. “Everything else will fall into place.”