Clackamas County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteers provided free vaccinations and served as clinical team leaders in a November 2011 clinic dispensing operation for community members who are homeless.
Clackamas County Public Health realized several years ago that despite the city/county partnership formed to dispense medication to all county residents, additional clinical support was still needed. The local MRC has helped meet that need.
Like the 14 other MRCs in Oregon, the Clackamas County MRC is a team of dedicated volunteer healthcare professionals who wish to serve their community in public health emergencies. Most of the local MRCs are housed in county health departments and work in partnership with the Oregon Health Authority's Public Health Division-Health Security, Preparedness and Response Program (HSPR) and the State Emergency Registry of Volunteers in Oregon. HSPR provides technical assistance, financial support, access to a statewide volunteer management system, and AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteers to help develop the statewide MRC program.
On this rainy day before Thanksgiving, nine volunteer Registered Nurses came together at a local social services center to practice emergency mass vaccination operations and address a current public health need in their community. As a result of additional training and planning, volunteers served not only as flu vaccine administrators but, for the first time, as clinical team leaders.
Kathy Chiocca and Teresa Joan Major, two of the most experienced and highly trained MRC volunteers, assumed these new leadership positions. They were responsible for managing fellow volunteers, overseeing vaccine inventory and vaccine administration, and leading just-in-time training. They also directed a volunteer shift change, which would be needed in an extended emergency vaccination operation. Adele Richey-McMurry, another MRC volunteer with a specialty in behavioral health, was also available to address behavioral health issues among clients and volunteers that might arise.
The exercise also broke new ground by serving a vulnerable population. In partnership with Clackamas Social Services and Clackamas Service Center, homeless count volunteers scoured the nearby transit center, trail and stores. These volunteers encouraged members of the homeless community to go for a flu vaccination and passed out flyers. Some people received a free bus ticket to help eliminate the transportation cost barrier.
The center was already drawing many members of the homeless community in approach of Thanksgiving. Many of the MRC volunteers remarked how impressed they were by the regular services provided by the center, and the cheerfulness and work ethic of the center’s volunteers.
Stormy weather and other events limited the number of community members that arrived, but MRC volunteers had a great opportunity to practice new roles, train as a team, trade stories and learn from one another.
Clackamas County Public Health expressed enormous gratitude to all of its MRC volunteers. Special recognition goes to those that participated in this event, including clinical leaders Kathy Chiocca and Teresa Joan Major, as well as Nancy Chapman, Kathy Dietrich, Lois Gleason, Terri Graven, Rebecca Lewis, Adele Richey-McMurry, Shirley Soderberg and Patti Wagner.
For public health planners, the event provided many lessons and the evaluation is being integrated into improvement plans for Clackamas County’s mass dispensing operations.