Frequently Asked Questions
Why were Medical Reserve Corps created?
There was an outpouring of support for emergency relief efforts after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Many Americans asked, "What can I do to help?" Medical and public health professionals were among those who wanted to volunteer their services, but many were not able to find a way to do so. Using public health and medical volunteers in emergencies requires an organized approach and the emergency management system had not identified a role for them. While they had very necessary skills and knowledge, medical personnel could not be called up because they were not identified, credentialed or trained in advance.
The anthrax attacks in Fall 2001 reinforced the need for pre-qualified and trained supplemental medical and public health personnel to assist with emergency operations such as mass antibiotic dispensing or mass immunization campaigns. The anthrax missions immunized almost 40,000 people. If these events had been much larger, the Federal responders would have been overwhelmed and extra personnel would have been required.
To help meet these needs, the Medical Reserve Corps Program was formed in 2002, in cooperation with the White House's USA Freedom Corps, as one of the charter programs of Citizen Corps. Recruiting, training and organizing medical and public health professionals to strengthen their communities through volunteerism are at the core of the MRC concept. MRC volunteers offer their expertise throughout the year by supporting local public health initiatives, such as immunization and prevention activities. When an emergency community need occurs, MRC volunteers can work in coordination with existing local emergency response programs. With an MRC in place, a formerly untapped community resource - medical and public health volunteers - is functioning and available for the community to access in emergencies and for ongoing efforts in public health.
What is the typical MRC unit?
There is no "typical" MRC unit. Each unit organizes in response to the specific needs of an area. A region's hazard threats, health concerns, and the organization in which the unit is established (health department, hospital, faith-based organization, etc.), will dictate what an MRC unit looks like. Despite these differences, all MRC units work toward bettering their local area's public health infrastructure and strengthening response capabilities in the event of an emergency.
Can I become a volunteer?
MRC units are designed to leverage the good will and desire to help that many people display in the wake of a disaster. They offer both medical and non-medical volunteers a chance to join a network of people who are trained and ready to respond to an emergency when called to assist local health and safety officials. Through MRC units, volunteer doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and EMTs learn how to assist in the response to a disaster affecting their communities. Even people without medical training are encouraged to join MRC units, as their non-medical skills are also useful during a response. Volunteers are provided valuable training free of charge, and they learn how to prepare themselves and their families during an emergency.
How do MRC units differ from the Massachusetts System for Advanced Registration (MSAR) program?
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health and numerous healthcare professional organizations have collaborated with the MRCs to develop and implement MSAR as a statewide emergency credentialing program. MSAR will identify healthcare professionals willing to offer their services in the community in addition to their principal place of employment. MRCs are local, community based response organizations whereas MSAR is a statewide system to pre-credential all healthcare volunteers in MA, including MRC members. MSAR works very closely with the state's MRCs. Representatives from the MRCs sit on the MSAR Advisory Committee and the MRCs utilize MSAR's database in order to identify pre-credentialed individuals offering services to the MRCs during times of crisis.
Can you register with both MSAR and an MRC program?
Yes. All members of MRCs and various other health/medical related organizations such as the Red Cross, local EMS, DMAT, etc. are encouraged to register with MSAR as well as belonging to their current response organization. Volunteer healthcare workers who do not belong to MSAR may not be afforded the legal protections that accompany an MSAR activation.
Some volunteers may wish to work only in their local communities, and the MRC is the best program for them. Registering for MSAR does not require a member to commit to any response obligation. An MRC member may chose to respond only and exclusively to a callout by his or her MRC. Belonging to MSAR will give MRC members legal protections that correspond with a statewide activation even if they commit only to their local MRC.
Others may not be able to volunteer on a regular basis for local work, but they would like to be available in the event of a major disaster or event. The MSAR system will provide these people with the means to identify the right opportunity and legal protections while volunteering. Volunteers who are potentially interested in both opportunities should register for either program. The registration process will prompt them to register for the other system.
What if multiple programs contact me to volunteer during a crisis?
All volunteers have responsibilities that must be met before they can respond to a callout. Whether it is your family, your primary job, your local MRC, your local fire department, DMAT or other group or organization, you will need to decide for yourself, and check with the others, before committing to a deployment. For example, if you are contacted by MSAR and belong to an MRC, the MSAR system will specifically ask if you have notified your Unit Commander that you intend to deploy through MSAR. The process for MRC release to MSAR activation will be developed by each MRC. If you are activated by your local MRC and then receive a request from MSAR, you will need to be released from your current responsibility before accepting an MSAR activation. Similarly, prior to accepting deployment, you will be required to obtain consent from your employer if deployment interferes with your work schedule.
If I register for one of these groups, am I required to go if I am contacted?
All volunteers can accept or refuse a request for help. No matter what the extent of the need is, these are VOLUNTARY deployments and participants are not required to respond to a request.
What if while volunteering with one group, I am contacted by the other?
Once a volunteer accepts an assignment, it is completely at his or her discretion to change assignment. A volunteer will be required to notify the unit leader or supervisor of their current assignment and request a release prior to accepting a new assignment. It would be difficult to anticipate all the possible scenarios and needs that might arise, but it is expected that volunteers will work with the organizations they have committed to in order to reach a mutually satisfactory outcome.
As a volunteer what role might I play?
The role you play in a response depends upon your unique skills. Possible emergency response roles are:
- Assisting in delivery of medical care within your level of expertise as an RN, LPN, CNA, MD, EMT, medical secretary, or other credentialed volunteer
- Providing mental health support
- Providing interpreting and translation services
- Assisting with set up and flow of people through the clinic
- Lending the community your special skills
I am a licensed medical or mental health provider. Why is it necessary for me to register pre-disaster?
Following many disasters, large numbers of talented professionals show up to help, but many of them are turned away because they are without the special skills and safety training given pre-event to keep personnel safe. An effective response requires that volunteers follow a pre-established protocol for activation and follow the incident command system.
Are additional training opportunities available?
Yes. Please refer to our training page for additional trainings for volunteer health care professionals. These trainings are of no cost to volunteers, and supply additional insight in topics such as the Incident Command System or Hazardous Materials.
I’m ready. How do I get involved?
- For now, get an online application copy and submit your application.
- Attend an orientation and bring a photo ID with you.
- Complete and submit the CORI check application form.
- And then participate in a refresher training per year to remain an active member.
We will contact you shortly! Thank you for your interest in the Worcester Regional Medical Reserve Corps.