By Kathy Deffer, NACCHO Senior Program Analyst
Public health preparedness planners are responsible for developing plans to protect the communities they serve against all hazards that may negatively impact local health and safety. Fulfilling this crucial role requires training and exercise plans ensuring preparedness staff and volunteers are both knowledgeable and able to perform their essential functions under stressful disaster conditions. In an effort to streamline training standards across all preparedness roles, NACCHO recently completed a collaborative project to better align the two different sets of guidelines used to train paid public health staff and volunteers serving in Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Units.
Released in 2012, the Core Competencies for Disaster Medicine and Public Health (DMPH) are endorsed by the National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health (NCDMPH) as the national standard for training public health preparedness staff. Developed through survey-based and in-person consultation, each competency was created with input from a diverse group of leaders and other stakeholders in the preparedness field. The completed guidelines provide a set of 11 clear, concise, and precise requirements delineating expected competency levels for health professionals in disaster medicine and public health.
Since MRC volunteers and public health preparedness staff often serve side by side, it is important that the training standards used by the MRC align with the DMPH Competencies. NACCHO with funding support from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), collaborated with an advisory group of MRC professionals on a two-year project to align the MRC Core Competencies with DMPH standards. In an effort to ensure the inclusion of and feedback from the national MRC and preparedness fields, informational sessions about the project, encouraging feedback from the field, were presented during the 2015 and 2016 NACCHO Preparedness Summit conferences.
Released in 2015, the updated MRC Competencies mirror the DMPH, but are grouped into four Learning Paths, Volunteer Preparedness, Volunteer Response, Volunteer Leadership, and Volunteer Support, ensuring the guidelines are directly applicable to the MRC volunteer experience. Each path is designed to be representative of actual volunteer roles, and account for the varying degrees of commitment and responsibility individuals can taken on throughout their service.
As an additional part of this project, several resources were created to support MRC Unit Leaders in understanding and implementing the revised Core Competencies. Now available on the NACCHO website and toolbox, (excluding the QuickSeries reference guide, which is accessible using the link below) these tools include the following:
- Training plan: offers multiple e-learning courses for each competency, allowing MRC Unit leaders or volunteers to choose specific trainings based on their needs.
- Volunteer assessment tracking tool: allows MRC Unit leaders to assess volunteers based on completed trainings and observation
- Self-assessment tool: allows MRC volunteers to complete a self-assessment of their performance.
- Fact sheet: informs community partners on new competencies in the context of their alignment with the DMPH competencies.
- QuickSeries reference guide: organizing competencies into easy-to-use tabs for both MRC Unit leaders and volunteers.
MRC Unit Leaders were also offered online training on the updated competencies and related resources during the National MRC Program’s monthly webinars, in April 2015 and January 2017. Click to view webinar slides presented at the April training for an overview of the updates made to MRC Core Competencies. Slides from the January training, which covered the complementary resources will be added to this blog as soon as they become available.
Visit the NACCHO website or Toolbox (in the MRC Toolkit) to view the updated MRC Core Competencies and four of the five resources, including the fact sheet, both assessment tools, and training plan. To view the QuickSeries Reference Guide, please visit this link. For similar tools related to staff training, visit the NCDMPH website, which offers planning resources linked to each DMPH competency.