The UMV MRC was activated for a public health issue, as well as a series of ten scheduled flu clinics.
One of the top priorities for MRCs across the U.S. is to be ready for public health emergencies. Our local unit had one of its 'firsts' this season: answering the call to mitigate the threat of a potential tuberculosis exposure.
In November the UMV MRC helped to test exposed students and staff, after being notified by the public health nurse from a local health department that MDPH (the Massachusetts Department of Public Health) had confirmed a positive case of tuberculosis within a school system.
Members who had the necessary expertise were contacted to assist. Over 150 people were tested. Six UMV MRC members helped to ‘plant’ the tests or read the results days later. Additional members were put on standby, in case they would be needed over time.
This call-out illustrates the value of having a large pool of volunteers available with diverse expertise, in case of urgent deployments. When an unpredictable threat to the public's health arises, a sufficient number of volunteers with the appropriate level of skills must be able to respond within hours. For many kinds of incidents, additional follow-up care or ongoing treatments may be required, over the course of several weeks.
The UMV MRC is proud of its members who rose to the occasion on short notice, and is grateful for their willingness to provide service across the region.
Starting on November 1 and continuing for five weeks, 84 of our members served throughout the Upper Merrimack Valley at ten flu clinics. This annual community service activity is ideal for helping members improve their hands-on skills, while getting better acquainted with their fellow volunteers in a relaxed setting.
Three MRC nurses enjoy a lighthearted moment before the Billerica clinic
Flu clinics can tap every level of expertise that the unit offers. Ham radio operators have assisted with communications across large clinics. Non-medical members support everything from registration and clinic flow to the orderly movement of vehicles that bring people to and from the facility. Others members have served as translators, greeters, counselors, and in ad-hoc capacities. These same skills may be called upon in a disaster, with little advance notice.
Similarly, members wishing to reinforce their medical skills have filled syringes, given inoculations, provided medical screening, and offered first aid.
EMTs can also help with traffic flow
Nurses fill syringes before a Westford clinic
Participation in these types of planned events makes it easier for our unit to be ready, in case our members are called on to provide staffing for an Emergency Dispensing Site on short notice. An EDS is set up in response to a disease outbreak or other public health emergency, with minimal lead-time in which to prepare. Thus our unit must be ready to ‘hit the ground running’ with skills, equipment, pre-credentialing, uniforms and ID badges already in place, well before a disaster strikes.
Clinic managers enthusiastically shared their appreciation of the UMV MRC volunteers who helped with this year’s clinics. Our membership helped to streamline their ability to provide this valuable public service.
Medical and non-medical members helped with forms
One member served at clinics in three different UMV communities over two weeks, and was impressed by the way each clinic adapted to serve its own residents. “I can’t believe how everybody just pitched in,” she reflected, upon seeing the ebb and flow of traffic through the largest clinic, and the way volunteers responded to sudden changes in the volume of participants. She added that the staff members at a smaller clinic “noticed someone new and went out of their way to welcome me. They were very congenial!” While there were variations in each town’s approaches, she added that “The time went by very fast, and I’ve learned a lot.”