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Assessment of Self-Evaluation Training for the Medical Reserve

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Volunteer Evaluators

For many coordinators, administrative and organizational activities consume nearly all their available time, leaving little margin for strategic planning or program evaluation. Yet these are valuable activities that can lead to better-organized, more successful units. Because of this the MRC coordinator may consider spending a small amount of time to find and work with a volunteer who can assist in preparing a strategic plan and evaluating unit activities.

Potential Sources of Evaluation Volunteers

There is a well-developed network of volunteer organizations in the United States. Many MRC units will be familiar with organizations operating in their geographical area and through which they may already seek medical and other volunteers for their units:

  • Senior Corps (http://www.seniorcorps.gov, last accessed March 24, 2008), which connects volunteers over the age of 55 with organizations needing assistance.
  • AmeriCorps, (http://www.americorps.org, last accessed March 24, 2008), which annually "supports the engagement of nearly 75,000 Americans in service to meet critical needs in education, the environment, public safety, homeland security, and other areas."
  • Corporation for National & Community Service, (http://www.nationalservice.org, last accessed March 24, 2008), which is the parent organization for Senior Corps and AmeriCorps.
  • VolunteerMatch describes itself as "the largest online network of participating nonprofits" (http://www.volunteermatch.org, last accessed March 24, 2008).
  • SmartVolunteer (http://www.smartvolunteer.org, last accessed March 24, 2008) is "an organization that [promotes] skills-based volunteering across all job functions and all industries."
  • 1-800 Volunteer (http://www.1-800-volunteer.org, last accessed June 10, 2008) is "is a national database of volunteer opportunities powered by a volunteer management system for non-profits."
  • Alumni Associations. While most alumni groups solicit volunteers for college- or university-based activities, others also host special interest groups that may be a good source of volunteers with experience in research who can serve the general community. The Penn State Alumni Association, for example, (http://www.alumni.psu.edu, last accessed March 24, 2008), hosts an interest group on Emergency Medical Services and the UCSD Alumni Association (http://alumni.uscd.edu, last accessed March 24, 2008) hosts an alumni group from the School of Medicine.
  • The American Evaluation Association (http://www.eval.org, last accessed March 24, 2008) hosts a topical interest group on "Disaster & Emergency Management Evaluation" and may be able to identify a volunteer to assist a MRC unit in conducting a self-evaluation.

We contacted a small sample of universities and associations as potential sources of volunteer evaluators. We spoke with individuals who discussed the conditions under which a university or professional association could provide volunteers to perform a unit evaluation.

Universities with Public Health and Health Administration programs may be a source of qualified students looking for practical work experience and internships. For example, at both the George Washington University School of Public Health in Washington D.C. and the George Mason School of Health Administration in Fairfax Virginia, graduate students are required to gain practical work experience in the form of either an internship or practicum. An internship is an experience-based opportunity, most often scheduled during breaks in the academic calendar, whereby a student receives credit for a supervised work experience related to his or her major. A practicum involves actual practice in the student's chosen field, often away from the college campus, in a practical or service situation. It is also defined as a work-study arrangement that earns college credit.

At both of the universities we contacted, the educators with whom we spoke emphasized that an MRC unit could work with an appropriate graduate program to identify qualified students and determine the nature and timing of the volunteering opportunity, either through an internship or a practicum.

Professional associations also may be a source of students or healthcare professionals who would be qualified to conduct MRC unit evaluations. We contacted three such associations: the American Public Health Association; the Association of Schools of Public Health; and the American Association of Health Care Administrative Management. Each of the associations expressed a belief that volunteer evaluators could be found among their membership. The American Public Health Association and the American Association of Health Care Administrative Management both require a fee to post a request for volunteers on their Web site. The Association of Schools of Public Health job/internship listing accepts volunteer requests at no charge to the requesting organization.

Exhibit 6 presents a summary of volunteer opportunities and contact information for a selected sample of university programs and professional associations.

Exhibit 6. Selected University Programs and Professional Associations

Organization Access Contact Information

George Washington University—Internship

No cost to requesting organization; post description of request to University Career Center

For more information, visit the University Web site at: http://www.gwumc.edu/sphhs/studentres/careers/jobs/

George Washington University—Practicum

Minimum of 240 hours in the field

No cost to requesting organization; E-mail department to post request

For more information, visit the University Web site at: http://www.gwumc.edu/sphhs/studentres/Practicum/index.cfm

George Mason University—Internship

No cost to requesting organization; E-mail department to post request

For more information, visit the University Web site at: http://www.gmu.edu/depts/chhs/HealthAdministrationPolicyDepartment/index.html

George Mason University—Practicum

Minimum of 20 hours a week in the field

No cost to requesting organization; E-mail department to post request

For more information, visit the University Web site at: http://www.gmu.edu/depts/chhs/HealthAdministrationPolicyDepartment/index.html

American Public Health Association

Refer to Web site for fee information; visit Web site to post request

For more information, visit the job posting Web site at: http://careers.apha.org/post.cfm

Association of Schools of Public Health—Internships

No cost to requesting organization; visit Web site to post request

For more information, visit the job posting Web site at: http://www.publichealthjobs.net/

American Association of Health Care Administrative Management—Internships

$150.00 for Members or $250.00 for Non-Members; visit Web site to post request

Contact Customer Service: 703-281-4043, or for more information, visit the job posting Web site at: http://www.aaham.org

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Required Skill Set

The evaluation volunteer needs to possess a strong set of evaluation-related skills but does not necessarily have to be a trained evaluator with years of experience. Skills relevant to developing a strategic plan and performing a unit evaluation include:

  • Strong writer with the ability to communicate complex ideas in simple language.
  • Logical and reasoning abilities to be able to create a logic model.
  • Some knowledge of emergency services.
  • Some knowledge of medical services.
  • Ability to understand the Self Evaluation Tools presented during the MRC training program and available online at http://www.medicalreservecorps.gov/SelfEvaluationTools (last accessed March 24, 2008).
  • Good people skills to work with MRC unit coordinators and members to gather data.
  • Reasonable quantitative and qualitative data-gathering skills.

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Recruiting the Evaluation Volunteer

Each MRC unit will have an existing method in place to recruit volunteers for medical and other services, and these methods can be used to seek evaluation volunteers from the sources listed above. When recruiting, the coordinator should be able to clearly specify that the unit is seeking assistance in developing a strategic plan and logic model, and in performing a unit self-assessment. The expected time commitment should also be made clear. For a minimal development and assessment effort, at least 12 weeks of four hours per week would be required. The coordinator should specify the skills needed, including those listed above.

When a candidate is identified, the coordinator should provide a contact person to interview the potential volunteer. The interviewer should be ready to show the volunteer the MRC self assessment tools and talk about the volunteer's interest in doing a unit evaluation, and his or her ability to understand and follow the steps in the tools.

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Managing the Evaluation Volunteer

The evaluation volunteer will most likely need more training time and more guidance than other unit volunteers, but is providing a valuable service and merits the extra time involved. The volunteer will need to be given introductions to any unit members to whom he or she will need to speak in order to gather information.

The coordinator or other person managing the volunteer's time should set a regular schedule to meet with the volunteer, whether in person or by phone, to check his or her progress and answer questions. This schedule may need to be adjusted to fit the volunteer's schedule at school or work. The timeline for the volunteer to produce a product should be reasonable and allow sufficient time for background research and meetings with MRC unit members. The volunteer should be included in regular MRC events to give him or her the flavor of the unit's activities.

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Expectations

At the mid-point of the volunteer's commitment period he or she should have produced a draft strategic plan and logic model. These should quickly be reviewed by the MRC coordinator and any other necessary MRC staff members so that the volunteer can perform a rapid unit assessment. By the end of the volunteer's commitment period, he or she should have produced a draft evaluation document for the unit. This may be a fairly high-level analysis but should lay the groundwork for continuing assessment that is more highly detailed. The unit coordinator should attempt to identify a long-term volunteer or staff member who will be the responsible person for carrying forward any evaluative activities, and who will see that the strategic plan and logic model are regularly updated.

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