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Assessment of Self-Evaluation Training for the Medical Reserve

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Utilization of the Training Guides and Toolkit

Upon completion of the regional training sessions, we conducted a series of follow-up interviews with the 25 MRC coordinators who were contacted for the needs assessment. Due to concern that some of these coordinators might not have attended their regional meeting, 13 additional coordinators were contacted who were known to have attended a regional meeting.2 A list of the units contacted for the follow-up interviews is provided in Exhibit 4.

The purpose of these interviews was:

  • To determine whether progress had been made over the past year in developing a strategic plan or conducting an evaluation.
  • To determine whether the coordinators had accessed and used the training guides and/or volunteer satisfaction survey they had been provided. And if not, to describe common barriers to using these tools.
  • To determine the future strategic planning and evaluation needs of the unit coordinators.

Exhibit 4. MRC Units Contacted

Unit name HHS region City State Ever Used Training Materials?
Original sample of 25 MRCs
Boston MRC I Boston MA  
Cape Cod MRC: Dennis Church of the Nazarene I South Dennis MA  
Wachusett MRC I Hubbardston MA Yes (logic model)
S2AY Public Health Network II Corning NY Viewed only
Warren County MRC II Washington NJ Viewed only
Virginia Beach MRC III Virginia Beach VA No
Lord Fairfax Health Dist. MRC III Winchester VA  
Escambia Co. Health Dept MRC IV Pensacola FL  
South West Alabama Medical Preparedness IV Mobile AL Viewed only
Schoolcraft County MRC V Manistique MI  
Cincinnati, OH - Tristate MRC V Cincinnati OH No
Oklahoma MRC - Region 1 VI OKC OK  
Miller County MRC VI Texarkana AR No
Sedgwick Co. Health Dept VII Wichita KS Viewed only
Lincoln/Lancaster Co. MRC VII Lincoln NE Viewed only
Cape Girardeau Co. MRC VII Cape Girardeau MO No
Bear River MRC Cache Co. VIII Logan UT  
MRC of Southern Colorado VIII Colorado Springs CO  
Natrona County MRC VIII Casper WY  
MRC Los Angeles IX Los Angeles CA  
Marin MRC IX Corte Madera CA  
Carson City MRC IX Carson City NV Viewed only
Multnomah County Health MRC X Portland OR  
North Central District Health Department MRC X Lewiston ID Yes (logic model)
Whatcom County MRC X Deming WA  
Additional sample of 13 MRCs
Capitol Region MRC I Hartford CT No
Upper Merrimack Valley MRC I Westford MA  
Greater Derry MRC I Derry NH  
Oxford County MRC I Rumford ME No
Bergen County MRC II Paramus NJ  
Hudson Regional Health Commission II Secaucus NJ Viewed only
Gloucester County MRC II Sewell NJ No
Chattanooga-Hamilton County MRC IV Chattanooga TN No
Barren River Area Development District MRC IV Bowling Green KY Viewed only
Central Nebraska MRC VII Hastings NE Viewed only
Marshall County MRC VII Marysville KS  
Eastern Idaho Public Health District X Idaho Falls ID Viewed only
OTTR Region 2 MRC X Corvallis OR No

Strong interest in the training guides and volunteer satisfaction surveys posted on the MRC national Web site was expressed during the regional training. Many coordinators stated that they planned to go back to their units and use the tools to help them develop a strategic plan or refine an existing plan. The feedback from our follow-up interviews, however, indicates that for the most part this has not happened. While many coordinators reported that they had viewed the tools, few had actually used them in any practical capacity. One coordinator remarked, "It's on my 'to do' list, along with a dozen other things."

Some of the coordinators we spoke with either had not been able to attend their regional meeting or were new to the position and were not familiar with the training materials. There were a few instances in which the MRC coordinator had attended the training but admitted that they did not remember the guides were available on the Web site. It was suggested that the tools might have been better advertised to promote continued awareness of them once the coordinators left the meetings and returned to their normal "day jobs."3

From the interviews, we received five examples of strategic plans for MRC units, including goal(s) and objectives statements. The formats used to develop the plans are as diverse as the units themselves. One State has developed an MRC strategic plan position statement for all of its MRC units. It was developed in partnership by the State Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, the State Department of Public Health, the Citizen Corps Advisory Council, and the regional office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A review of the goals and objectives statements provided to us indicates that there is still some confusion over the difference between these terms. For example, one unit established the goal to "recruit and mobilize 300 volunteers from two counties to serve as MRC volunteers." The objectives provided to support this goal, shown in Exhibit 5, more accurately represent the specific tasks of a work plan to recruit volunteers. The goal statement itself is more consistent with what we would consider an appropriate objective (although it lacks a timeframe for completion).

Exhibit 5. Sample Goal Statement and Supporting Objectives

Goal Objectives

To recruit and mobilize 300 volunteers from two counties to serve as MRC volunteers

  • 1.1. Identify 3 community resources in each of 10 counties in SW Alabama to assist with information dissemination and recruitment.
  • 1.2. Develop public information campaign about homeland security to use in recruiting CERT teams.
  • 1.3. Distribute information about terrorism, potential threats and CERT in each target county through media outlets and public speaking engagements (10 speaking engagements per year).
  • 1.4. Provide orientation to elected and civic leaders in each county to enlist support and cooperation in recruiting and utilizing CERTs.
  • 1.5 Develop data-base to track participants and their activities.

The vast majority of coordinators we spoke with indicated that they had not made significant progress in developing a strategic plan. The most common barrier was not having enough time to get to it. Another barrier was the belief that there were other, more pressing issues such as addressing the liability protection issue. One coordinator stated, "The first thing prospective volunteers want to know is, 'am I going to be covered.' If I can't answer that question, I can't recruit anyone and then it doesn't matter what type of strategic plan I have." This sentiment supports the earlier statement that many coordinators place higher priority on structural challenges than on planning challenges.

There were, however, some MRC unit coordinators who have used the training guides to develop a strategic plan or logic model. One coordinator reported using the logic model guide to help her develop a logic model specific to her volunteers and organization. In another instance, a coordinator stated that she had viewed the logic model guide but would have preferred something simpler to be able to completely understand it and use it with any sense of ease. Still, she found the guide helpful, saying, "We are much clearer this year than we have been."

Unfortunately, we encountered no coordinators who had administered the volunteer satisfaction survey. One of the coordinators reported having developed their own survey a few months before ours was released. He stated that he did not get much of a response and was curious in trying again with our survey. Most of the other coordinators that we contacted stated that they thought the survey was a great idea, but their programs were not ready for it.

2. The names and contact information for these coordinators were provided by program staff in the MRC national office.
3. Most MRC coordinators cover MRC responsibilities on a part-time basis, typically spending only a small fraction of their time on day-to-day MRC operations.

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