A recent article published by the Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness Journal (DMPHP) outlines considerations for humanitarian volunteers thinking about deploying to Ebola-stricken areas.
Written by a consortium of Boston-based hospitals, the article is “Sign Me Up: Rules of the Road for Humanitarian Volunteers during the Ebola Outbreak” aims to 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, stating that is best to have trained emergency response clinicians, instead of medical students and trainees on the ground.
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 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
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.
DMPHP is the official journal of the Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health. The society’s mission 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.