Overlapping Roles in Related Occupations

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Social workers, nurses, medical assistants.

There are some overlapping roles in occupations related to CHWs. These include:

  • Care management and coordination (nurses, social workers)
  • Health education (nurses, health educators, diabetes educators, dental hygienists)
  • Counseling (social workers, therapists)
  • Patient follow-up (nurses, medical assistants)
  • Direct care (nursing assistants, personal care aides)


CHWs often work as part of a team with people in related occupations. In these instances, specific tasks may be delegated to CHWs, but the clinical responsibilities of the CHW are always limited.

The first overlapping role, care management and coordination, is a good example of the potential for a team approach involving CHWs, although some CHWs provide informal care coordination with a fair degree of autonomy and consult with a clinical professional only for backup.

Distinctions may be more subtle in areas like health education and counseling, in which the CHW’s role is often informal and peer-oriented. In the case of counseling, the CHW often acts more as a peer advisor and provider of social support than as a therapist. Patient follow-up by CHWs is often provided in a community or home-visit setting, whereas nurses and medical assistants follow up primarily by telephone.

People unfamiliar with CHWs may turn to direct care occupations, such as nursing assistants or home health aides, for a familiar frame of reference. Although practitioners of these occupations operate may also in a community or home-visit setting, their services are commonly limited to direct service as prescribed or ordered by another health professional.