The surge of the volunteer effort after 9/11 demonstrated that the American people have a strong sense of volunteerism in times of disaster. The following year, President Bush called for a coordination of volunteer efforts in the event of a future disaster. The Freedom Corps was established as the overall umbrella to organize and strengthen volunteer efforts so that every American who wanted to volunteer could do so in some capacity.1
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is one of the many volunteer organizations that arose from the Freedom Corps. This community-based volunteer organization consists of medical and nonmedical members. As of June 2018, the MRC network had 910 units with a total of 190,920 volunteers in all states and some US territories.2 The MRC's purpose is to strengthen the local public health system's response during a health emergency or disaster. Some MRC members are currently volunteering with COVID-19 community screening stations.
The MRC has training sessions to help support public health in your community. Volunteers can participate in a variety of activities, including promoting disease prevention, assisting with emergency sheltering, setting up dispensing stations, administering mass prophylaxis medications, providing first-aid services for community events, and providing disaster support in mass-casualty incidents. In my community, the MRC has set up clinics for mass influenza immunizations of the police department; staffed first-aid tents during citywide marathons, the 2015 papal visit, and music events; administered mass immunizations at colleges during the recent measles outbreak; participated in mass emergency simulation drills for the fire and police departments; and staffed shelters at high schools for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Membership in the MRC does not mean that you are mandated to participate in all of these events; you can select the events that you are most comfortable with and that are convenient for you.
The nursing profession is truly about helping the community. During the coronavirus pandemic, I urge any clinicians not already on the front lines who are interested in helping their community to consider joining their local MRC unit. Learn more about the MRC here: mrc.hhs.gov/HomePage.
Donna Barto, DNP, RN, CCRN
Faculty, Rowan College of Burlington County Advanced Nurse Clinician, Virtua Hospital, Marlton, N.J.
1. White House Archives. USA Freedom Corps: strengthening service to meet community needs. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/infocus/bushrecord/factsheets/needs.html
2. Raja K. The Medical Reserve Corps: volunteers augmenting local public health preparedness and response. J Public Health Manag Pract