Public Release: 

Volunteer guidelines for clinicians in the ebola epidemic

Safety and protocol measures for humanitarian volunteers

Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health

Rockville, MD -Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness Journal has released a novel, informative article that speaks to volunteers within the Ebola epidemic. The article, contributed by a consortium of Boston-based hospitals, is entitled Sign Me Up: Rules of the Road for Humanitarian Volunteers during the Ebola Outbreak. The authors paint an honest picture of volunteer circumstances, and ask those considering volunteering to not make the decision lightly. They insist that the "global healthcare community must and will rise to serve."

The World Health Organization has advocated for having more volunteers on the ground to aid the outbreak. The article by the Boston consortium reiterates this, though pushes for having thoroughly trained and prepared volunteers. The authors imply that is best to have trained emergency response clinicians, instead of medical students and trainees on the ground. Experience reigns king in an event as such, and patients will surely benefit most with the aid of experienced physicians. The article provides guidelines that volunteer organizations as well as individual volunteers must emphasize and implicate to achieve volunteer well-being and safety.

The authors recognize that volunteers serve at great personal risk, to provide clinical care to others. The authors also find it important to acknowledge that the chance of medical evacuation is low, despite the cases widely reported by the media. With the provided guidelines in mind and necessitated, the risk has potential to decline.

The authors ask volunteers to consider the following:

  • Time commitment (more than 2 weeks)
  • Personal and organization health insurance, medical evacuation insurance, disability and life insurance
  • Family circumstances
  • Organization and individual emergency response experience
  • Personal, mental and professional readiness
  • Comprehensive pre-deployment training
  • Proper personal protection equipment (PPE, often provided by organization) and medical supplies
  • Return-to-work considerations
  • Organization contingency plans for evacuation or ill/injured staff

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About the Journal

Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness is the first comprehensive and authoritative journal emphasizing public health preparedness and disaster response for all health care and public health professionals globally. The journal seeks to translate science into practice and integrate medical and public health perspectives. DMPHP is the official journal of the Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health.

About the Society

The Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health aims to evolve a discipline around disaster medicine and public health. The society's goal is to improve global health security, with the involvement and development of global health professionals and others who are involved in responding to and or managing significant events. The mission of the SDMPH is to advance and promote excellence in education, training and research in disaster medicine and public health for all potential health system responders based on sound educational principles, scientific evidence and best clinical and public health practices.

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