Community Health Worker Program

Basic information

In 2002, the Calvin College Nursing Program initiated a community-based nursing curriculum that was founded on partnerships with four urban under-served neighborhoods in Grand Rapids.

Community Based Participatory Research was utilized to develop and sustain these partnerships and drive community-based / community-focused nursing student learning experiences across the curriculum.

In 2002-2004, the nursing department and community partners completed a community assessment within each neighborhood. Results of the community assessment were shared with each neighborhood and residents identified access to health care as the top health concern for their neighborhood.  When neighborhood residents were asked to identify a strategy to address this top health concern, the solution agreed upon by the community was the creation of a Community Health Worker (CHW) program where lay people from each neighborhood would be hired and trained as CHW's to work with nursing students during their practicum experience promoting health and access to care.  A pilot of this program was initiated in one neighborhood in 2004 with funding from a Community Outreach Partnership Center grant from the Department of Housing and Urban development.

Between 2005-2007, the program was expanded to the other neighborhoods and researched for program effectiveness with funding from Spectrum Health Healthier Communities Department.  Two articles have been published demonstrating the positive impact of the program on both the health of the community and learning for nursing students. 

The CHW program continues today and has been incorporated into several other research projects within the neighborhoods such as the Women Supporting Women program and the PREKNOP program. 


Principle Investigator: Gail Zandee – Associate Professor of Nursing and Community Parternship Coordinator

Research Team

Debra Bossenbroek, previous Assistant Professor of Nursing 

Research Assistants

Meghan Friesen, nursing student
Kari Blech, nursing student
Ruth Engbers, nursing student



Gail Zandee

Gail Zandee

Associate Professor
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