Beginning in August, a new Portland Community College training course will help supply local agencies with qualified contact tracers to help combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
In April, Oregon Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority announced that as part of the state’s plan for reopening, contact tracing would be critical in combating the virus’ spread. OHA emphasized the need to create nimble, culturally specific monitoring and response teams, which includes contact tracers.
Through the Institute for Health Professional Program, PCC’s Contact Tracer Training is a self-paced, non-credit course made up of six modules. Participants will have up to two weeks to complete it and will earn a letter of completion once they’ve finished. Students will learn the basics of COVID-19 and contact tracing; why the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is important; understand and practice cultural awareness; learn the basics of motivational interviewing; and how to effectively deliver a phone script.
Training classes will start on Monday, Aug. 3.
“Contact tracers are critical to ensure the safe, sustainable and effective quarantine of those affected to prevent additional transmission by tracing and monitoring infected people and notifying them of their exposure,” said Karen Sanders, division dean of Health Professions and interim dean for Continuing and Community Education. “The foundation for the curriculum of the course was provided by OHA and we supply the instructional expertise and an online delivery method. They were excited to partner with us.”
Sanders said there is high demand for contact tracers and preliminary reports suggest that more than 100,000 contact tracers are needed nationwide in the near future to help prevent further spread of COVID-19. In addition, PCC’s curriculum is aligned to specific training guidelines per the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the OHA, which is a benefit to students who complete the PCC training.
“Contact tracers are being hired by county and city health departments and a wide variety of private businesses who are employing contact tracing as part of their back-to-work strategy,” Sanders explained. “Currently, there is no educational or training requirement for these positions. However, having training in the basics of COVID-19 and the skills for culturally sensitive interviewing, should provide an advantage for students.”
When Gov. Brown and the OHA set the re-opening guidelines, PCC President Mark Mitsui realized the need for training for local community members, who can provide contact tracing with a culturally appropriate lens. Mitsui has also emphasized that PCC has the ability and expertise to act as a talent pipeline of culturally diverse individuals into these jobs.
“The information and guidance provided by the Governor and OHA have built the foundation for training and the deployment of the large numbers of contact tracers that will be needed to successfully reopen Oregon,” said Mitsui. “However, in order for contact tracing to be the most effective at the local level, each region must have a unique outreach, recruitment and training plan tailored to their culturally specific needs. Portland Community College is well positioned to contribute to this effort.”