In a recent study, Dr. Lisa C. McCormick, associate professor in the department of health care organization and policy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, surveyed volunteers in the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) to ascertain factors that could influence their decision to respond to a health care emergency. Dr. McCormick and her fellow researchers sought to determine practical planning assumptions in regard to the use of volunteers in emergency situations, along with how to improve volunteer response rates.
[Photo: Dr. Lisa C. McCormick]
The Mississippi State Department of Health transmitted to all MRC volunteers who had registered with the Mississippi Responder Management System (MRMS) by September 2014 an electronic message that included a link to an anonymous online survey.
“Respondents were asked if they would be able to deploy within 24 hours. Approximately 85 percent of those surveyed indicated they would not be available and able to deploy within that time frame. Common factors reported in terms of respondent decisions to deploy included risk to personal health (61.2 percent), length of deployment (58.8 percent), and the security of the deployment area (55.3 percent). In addition, 67 percent of respondents indicated that extended periods of deployment would have a negative financial impact on their lives. Respondents who have had training or previous deployment experience reported having greater knowledge of potential response roles, increased comfort in their ability to respond with the MRC, and increased confidence in responding to differing public health emergencies,” notes Dr. McCormick.
The team concluded that volunteer issues regarding personal and site security, as well as concern about length of deployment, must be addressed by planners. Adds Dr. McCormick, “Emergency plans utilizing MRC volunteers will require significant evaluation to assess the risk of relying on an expected resource that could be severely limited during an actual emergency.”
Co-investigators include department colleague Dr. Matthew Fifolt, assistant professor, and UAB alumni Ms. Caroline Mercer and Mr. Jesse Pevear III.
“Mississippi Medical Reserve Corps: Moving Mississippi From Emergency Planning to Response Ready” was published online in October 2016 in the Journal of Public Health Management & Practice.