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County of Sonoma California

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Medical Reserve Corps

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Overview

As part of Sonoma County's emergency planning and response system, in 2003 the Department of Health Services developed a community volunteer health service corps known as the Medical Reserve Corps. This group, part of a nationwide effort, consists of about 400 trained health care professionals including nurses, physicians, and pharmacists; mental health professionals such as psychologists, social workers, family therapists, and psychiatric technicians; and non-medical personnel, all of whom desire to serve as volunteers in our community during health-related emergencies.

The primary mission of the Sonoma County MRC is to recruit and train health care professionals and other interested volunteers for staffing mass vaccination and prophylactic medication dispensing sites in the event of a public health emergency. Over time, the mission has been expanded to include offering surge personnel to hospitals, alternate care sites, evacuation shelters, and other venues in a large health emergency. In a disaster, volunteer roles may be defined with the help of community planning partners, and Public Health facilitates training and exercises.

Positions in the MRC

Many skills and abilities are needed during a public health emergency. Volunteer positions with the Medical Reserve Corps are organized into five broad categories:

The Medical Volunteer performs clinical evaluations in an emergency clinical setting. Tasks for volunteers in this category may include medical information counseling, patient screening, assisting patients with completion of forms, conducting physical exams and evaluations, managing medical supply inventory, and dispensing medication or administering vaccine under the supervision of a physician. Licensed Clinician Volunteers may also be asked to perform non-clinical functions, such as providing general assistance to patients or stocking supplies.

The Physician Volunteer performs a range of physician services in an emergency clinical setting. Tasks for volunteers in this category typically include medical consultation with patients or staff, patient screening, and first aid medical advice. These volunteers may also conduct physical exams, administer vaccinations, dispense medication, or consult with Public Health staff to determine the need for isolation. Physician Volunteers may also be asked to perform non-clinical functions, such as providing general assistance to patients.

The Pharmacist Volunteer performs pharmaceutical services in an emergency clinical setting. Tasks for volunteers in this category typically include medication and medical supplies inventory management, packaging, and distribution of medications at the dispensing site, secure management of DEA controlled medications, and patient counseling on medications. These volunteers may also dispense medication or consult with Public Health staff to determine the need for additional medications. Pharmacist Volunteers may also be asked to perform non-clinical functions, such as assisting patients with completion of forms.

The Support Staff Volunteer performs a wide variety of tasks in a health emergency setting. Tasks for volunteers in this category may include greeting people and traffic control in parking areas. They may provide general, non-medical information to patients, assist patients with completion of forms, or provide translation services. Volunteers may help with short-term childcare, materials stocking, or set-up and take-down of workspaces. Support Staff Volunteers may provide security services and assist with other tasks that may arise.

The Mental Health Volunteer (psychologist, LCSW, MFT, psychiatric technician) performs tasks such as checking staff and patients for signs of stress or other mental health concerns, maintaining safety of the workplace, evaluating and triaging individuals and staff for a higher level of mental health care, training staff on assisting the "worried well" during medical and public health emergencies, and possibly facilitating a Critical Incident Staff Debriefing (CISD) process for the emergency response workforce. As with any volunteer, mental health volunteers may also be asked to perform non-licensed tasks as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the MRC Program?

To respond to the health emergency needs of the community including providing surge capacity (extra staffing) for emergency response locations determined by Public Health. The MRC does not replace existing staffing resources.

Who are the volunteers?

Volunteers include licensed or certified health professionals (nurses, physicians, pharmacists, paramedics, etc.), licensed or certified mental health professionals (LCSW, MFT, psychologists, and psychiatric technicians), and non-medical community members.

What is required to become a MRC volunteer?

First, prospective volunteers register on California's Disaster Healthcare Volunteers (DHV) website.

Then, a registrant will be invited to become an official Sonoma County volunteer by completing and submitting a County volunteer application including disaster service worker oath. Volunteers also receive a photo ID badge. (Application/oath and badging appointments can be made with PHP most times during the year.)

After that, volunteers can be deployed to disaster incidents or sponsored trainings and events and be protected by workers' compensation and liability coverage.

Also, all MRC volunteers are required to attend an Annual MRC Assembly with an orientation and training. Here they learn how the MRC functions, what County emergency plans are currently in place, their roles and responsibilities in a disaster, and any related biological, medical and/or mental health preparedness responses. They also meet other MRC members. For a self-orientation, review basic MRC orientation information at this web page under Training Materials.

MRC Volunteers are encouraged to attend trainings, drills and exercises that are held throughout the year in person or online, and to look for announcements from Public Health via email or on this website. Trainings may include pandemic influenza preparedness, using safety needles, personal preparedness, and a variety of public health topics. Volunteers can participate in drills and exercises such as the setup of public health Point of Dispensing sites (PODs), annual statewide exercises, and hospital emergency preparedness drills.

Public Health may also invite MRC Volunteers to participate in certain community events such as staffing annual community flu shot clinics, participating in respiratory/hand hygiene training for elementary school children, and other community health education activities.

Finally, MRC volunteers prepare their families for their absence during a health emergency by creating and maintaining a family emergency plan and supply kit. Volunteers also prepare themselves to serve on short notice by creating a personal go-kit, packed in advance so that if a health emergency strikes, they can just pick up the kit and go!

What are volunteers asked to do and where?

For response to a public health emergency, volunteers are trained to serve in a variety of settings. These emergency field assignments may be located at public health Point of Dispensing sites (PODs), hospitals, special emergency health facilities, alternate care sites, evacuation shelters, or other assignment locations.

How does the MRC program communicate with its volunteers?

On a regular basis volunteers receive email messages through the State's DHV system or directly from Public Health Preparedness. These may include web links to invitations for trainings, conferences, events and exercises.

For emergency notification and deployment, volunteers may receive an email or an automated telephone notification call via the DHV system. The deployment message would contain: 1) a greeting: "This is Sonoma County Public Health with a message for the Medical Reserve Corps, with the date and time of the call; and 2) situational information with instructions including where and when to report, a list of what to bring, and other relevant information.

MRC Training Resources

Sonoma County MRC Orientation

Volunteers are required to participate in this annual event.

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Sonoma County Medical Reserve Corps: An Introduction

Sonoma County MRC: An Introduction (pdf) presented May 18, 2017

MRC Clinical Orientation

MRC Clinical Orientation (pdf) presented May 18, 2017

Disaster Services Worker Emergency Management Training

Disaster Services Worker Emergency Management Training (pdf) presented May 18, 2017

MRC Clinical Orientation

Health Department Emergency Response Plans: An Introduction for MRC Volunteers (pdf) presented May 18, 2017

MRC Core Competencies

MRC Core Competencies (pdf)

TB 101: Infection vs. Disease

TB 101: Infection vs. Disease (pdf) presented May 18, 2017

Stop the Bleed Poster

Stop the Bleed Poster presented May 18, 2017
Source: American College of Surgeons.

Save a Life Flowchart

Save a Life Flowchart presented May 18, 2017
Source: American College of Surgeons.

FEMA Online Courses

Completion of these courses is recommended. A free user account is required to access the courses.

IS-100.b - Introduction to Incident Command System ICS-100

IS-200.B - ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents

IS-700.a - Introduction to the National Incident Management System (NIMS)

MRC-TRAIN Online Courses

Completion of these courses is recommended. A free user account is required to access the courses.

MRC-TRAIN 101 for Volunteers (How To Use MRC-TRAIN)
15 minutes, 0 CEUs

MRC Volunteer Core Competencies: An Introduction and Overview
25 minutes, 0 CEUs

IS-100.b - Introduction to Incident Command System ICS-100
3 hours, .3 CEUs

IS-200.B - ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents
3 hours, .3 CEUs

IS-700.a - NIMS: An Introduction
3 hours, .3 CEUs

Personal Preparedness (Core Competency #1/#2)
1.0 CEUs

Related Links

Disaster Healthcare Volunteers of California
Source: California Emergency Medical Services Authority.

National Medical Reserve Corps Resource Site
Source: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Department of Health and Human Services.

MRC-TRAIN
Source: Training Finder Real-time Affiliate Integrated Network (TRAIN).





Related Links

Medical and Health Disaster Planning

Community Preparedness
Disaster information and resources for the public.

Healthcare Coalition
Resources for community healthcare providers.

Health Department Disaster Planning
Health Department disaster planning resources.

Contact

For medical questions:
Ask a Disease Control Nurse

For administrative questions:
Public Health Preparedness
625 5th Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Phone: (707) 565-4496
Fax: (707) 565-4411
Email: PHPreparedness@sonoma-county.org