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Assessment of Self-Evaluation Training for the Medical Reserve

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The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Office of the Surgeon General (OSG) contracted with the MRC Evaluation Training Team to provide program evaluation training and consultation to Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) unit coordinators and program staff. This work was completed in coordination with a combined AHRQ/OSG management team led by Captain Robert J. Tosatto, Director of the Office of the Civilian Volunteer Medical Reserve Corps in the Office of the Surgeon General, and Dr. Sally Phillips, Director of AHRQ's Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program. Evaluation will enable MRC units to measure and track their individual progress, while also providing regional and national program officials with the data necessary to monitor broader trends, including the identification of program gaps.

Since the MRC began in July 2002, there has been unprecedented growth both in the number of units and the number of volunteers nationwide. In the 18 months since this study was initiated, the number of units has increased from 671 to 761. This growth has been driven primarily by community initiative rather than Federal funding. As a result, there have been few cross-unit standards applied to the capabilities, capacities, and competencies of MRC units.

This report describes the evaluation training that we conducted at MRC regional meetings between July and December 2007. It highlights key lessons that were learned from the training sessions and modifications that we made to ensure the training was most relevant to unit coordinators. It also describes findings from follow-up interviews that we conducted with MRC unit coordinators to determine whether the training tools that we developed were being used.

In addition, this report presents the findings of two environmental scans. First, we reviewed the published literature and Internet sources on the various stages of development and maturation of non-profit or volunteer-based organizations. This review was conducted in an effort to demonstrate how evaluation activities might be applied across the growth of an MRC unit. The second scan focused on strategies or methods that volunteer-based groups use to characterize the value or contribution (financial or programmatic) of volunteers' time and effort. The findings of this scan are summarized in Appendix C.

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