The latest news coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic is the urgent need to hire and train over one hundred thousand contact tracers to trace and monitor contacts of infected people and notify them of their exposure. Along with continued quarantine, increased testing, and improved public communications, the contact tracing efforts are a critical component in the efforts to control the pandemic.
Contact tracing is the investigative work conducted by public health workers to identify the network of individuals who might have been exposed to the disease. Contact tracers are being hired all across the country. This is good news for people who have been recently furloughed or laid off who have a high school diploma or equivalent and the ability to speak, read, and write in English. Contact tracer jobs may provide new employment options.
Contact Tracer Hiring Challenge
In a typical hiring scenario, a job is posted online and candidates with similar skill sets apply. They have a foundational understanding of the job with various experience levels, industry expertise, or specializations. The hiring manager can screen applicants based on the desired skills and background.
Hiring contact tracers comes with a unique challenge of a limited talent pool with the desired foundational understanding. There is a finite number of public health workers who are likely already employed. In addition, ideally, contact tracers will be part of the community in which they are hired to work. Now you have geographic limitations.
Any recruiter knows that when a job is posted online (like this one from Partners in Health recruiting in Massachusetts), the net is cast wide, and the post attracts hundreds of applicants. In the current environment with record-high unemployment levels, any job post will receive even more applications than usual with backgrounds outside of community health. Retail associates, restaurant staff, independent contractors, lawyers, and business professionals are all among current job seekers.
Many people may have transferable skills that may qualify them to be a contact tracer. Others may simply have a strong work ethic and be willing to learn. The process will be more demanding and time-consuming for the hiring manager to review hundreds of applications and look for those transferable skills and attributes that demonstrate work ethic and empathy desired.
Contact Tracing Onboarding and Training Challenge
Onboarding such a large number of candidates who have a more diverse skill set presents onboarding challenges. Training content will need to include more topics to help level-set new hires. All of these are available in ej4’s off-the-shelf library of training videos. We have curated a special curriculum of contact tracing training topics.
One of the primary responsibilities is to call contacts of newly diagnosed patients. We have several generations in the workforce who don’t use their phone to make calls. These candidates will need training on phone etiquette, handling angry and upset people, and persuasive communications.
In a call-center environment, calls can be recorded or monitored for training purposes. Contact tracers will be expected to use their own phones so this important aspect of training will be impossible. Trainers may need to create training videos to illustrate various scenarios to properly manage the calls.
Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
The PIH job description lists “Communicate with contacts in a professional and empathetic manner” as one of the responsibilities. Imagine being on the receiving end of a call from a contact tracer. They follow the script and explain that you may have been exposed. Imagine your own emotional reaction as you express your own fear, anger, or panic to the caller.
There is a lot of unrest in the country with conspiracy theories and protests. People are frustrated from weeks of being quarantined. People are losing loved ones and are unable to properly grieve as COVID-19 patients die alone in hospitals. The contact tracers will be encountering people dealing with an unpredictable range of emotions and they will need specialized training to be able to manage the conversations with empathy and still accomplish their goals of documenting symptoms, advising quarantine instructions, etc.
Many of these new hires will not have experience working in a typical “desk job” with administrative responsibilities. Tracking outbound calls, leaving voicemail messages, scheduling follow-up calls, filling out the online forms, getting interrupted by a returned call are all tasks that need to be organized and managed while working from home with the distractions that come with their family, pets, and home life.
Training topics should include:
- Avoiding Procrastination
- Business Writing
- Coping with Change
- Stress Management
- Time Management
We offer a full library of award-winning, off-the-shelf training videos available immediately. We have curated a curriculum of suggested contact tracing training and onboarding courses to supplement your custom training needs.
According to the sample job description, a primary responsibility will be to record information on symptoms. They will also need to comply with Department of Public Health training regarding confidential information related to personal information. The assumption here is that any new hires handling this confidential personal information would need to be trained on HIPAA.
HIPAA is the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was passed by Congress in 1996. One aspect related to the virus tracing process is the requirement for the protection and confidential handling of protected health information.
Training COVID-19 Contact Tracers Needs to Include Video
In the current times of continued social distancing and sheltering at home, all of these workers will continue to be dispersed working remotely. With the rapid workforce expansion, new hires will need to be trained and operational as quickly as possible.
In-person training is impossible right now with social distancing rules in place. Video conferencing with individuals or small groups will be very time-consuming and ineffective if you are trying to onboard hundreds of people at a time. Reading a long single-spaced PDF is going to be tedious and boring for the new hires. Reading a document or webpage with screenshots of the technology being used is going to be frustrating, confusing, and ineffective. This is where video can be the most effective and engaging.
Our approach at ej4 is to create short, video-based eLearning that can be viewed anytime, anywhere. That’s what the 4 Js in our name stands for. Our content is just as needed, just enough, just in time, and just right. With the urgency around getting the contact tracers deployed, video training is an obvious choice.
Videos are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in any timezone, on-demand immediately. The hiring process will continue over time as candidates are identified, screened, and interviewed. Once people are hired, they can immediately view the training videos and get to work. New hires won’t have to sit idle, waiting for all of the positions to be filled so that everyone can be trained at once.
Every new hire must hear the same information, the same details and instructions, every time. Tracing the network of exposure and inspection can be a life and death matter. According to several job descriptions found online, contact tracers must follow the script to inform contacts about the importance of quarantine and what to do if symptoms develop. They are not permitted to deviate from the script or provide information that is not included in the script. Video can deliver the same rigor during training.
The person or teams responsible for training and onboarding have limited time and resources. It doesn’t make sense for them to spend hours repeating the same information for every new hire, over and over. Especially when we are talking about onboarding thousands of people.
In addition, the assumption is that this will be a high-turnover position. Due to the stress and emotional nature of this work along with the relatively low pay scale, these positions will see a high level of burnout. Frequent turnover will require a continuous process of hiring, onboarding, and training.
Custom Training Videos for Contact Tracers
These new hires are dealing with life and death scenarios while tracing the infections. There is no room for wasting time due to ineffective training and onboarding with amateur videos and training materials. You need high-quality content that will be relevant for a long time, engage the contact tracers so they can understand their role and your processes to effectively track this virus.
Since 2004, ej4 has been a leader in the training industry creating award-winning custom training videos. We help our clients positively impact employee behaviors and business outcomes through our complete learning solution. In this case, the outcomes will be saving lives and minimizing the spread of infections.
We were creating and streaming videos before YouTube was invented. One of the primary uses of our training content is the successful onboarding of new employees. We recognize time is of the essence. Our team is nimble and responsive and we can meet your tight deadlines.
We’ve created hundreds of custom videos for clients over the years on everything from product knowledge to safety processes. This is what we do. We also have the ability to provide closed-captioning in almost any language needed.
State and local health departments may have different processes and questionnaires, and use different technologies and apps to capture the network information. Training videos will need to be customized for each group or state-specific information.
As mentioned above, it will also be helpful to create training videos to cover various role-playing scenarios with people who are suspicious, irate, mourning, combative or any number of emotions related to coping with the nature of the call.
If you need help with training during this challenging time, ej4 is here for you. In early March we released training videos on Coronavirus Precautions and Pandemic Planning and made these available for free. You can watch and download the courses here. We want to be part of the solution to help other companies come through this crisis. If you have any questions, please reach out to us.