Medical Reserve Corps assists with vaccination clinics

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Since its creation in 2004, the University of Minnesota's (U of M) Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) has aided in emergency response and public health initiatives on campus and in the broader community. So it was not unusual when the campus health service requested MRC support for its H1N1 mass vaccination clinics.

The U of M's MRC comprises students, staff, and faculty from the Academic Health Center and Boynton Health Service (BHS). It includes more than 900 members. Its mission is to prepare for and respond to large-scale campus, local, state, or national emergencies in a timely, efficient and effective manner, thereby providing unique educational and experiential opportunities for Academic Health Center students, staff and faculty.

BHS was primarily responsible for organizing and coordinating the H1N1 mass vaccination campaign on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus.

In 2009, the health service asked the Academic Health Center Office of Emergency Response (AHC-OER), which houses the MRC program, to help increase the efficiency and capacity of H1N1 mass vaccination clinics. MRC members have been part of written public health response plans and training/exercises for a number of years and had played an important role in supplementing health service resources during the seasonal influenza vaccination campaign. More than 100 MRC members were deployed during the H1N1 vaccination response, primarily assisting with registration, screening, ushering and supply support. Six registered nurses served as injectors during two of the 15 mass immunization clinics.

BHS and AHC-OER established a process to request MRC resources. AHC-OER received requests for staffing support days in advance of a scheduled mass vaccination clinic. BHS sent specific staffing requests to AHC-OER, including number of MRC members needed and staff roles (registration clerk, screener, usher, supply staff, registered nurses to serve as vaccinators). The MRC coordinator was responsible for MRC member recruitment, scheduling, and training. This allowed the BHS clinic coordinator to focus on scheduling and supervision of registered nurses serving as vaccinators, as well as vaccine and supply/equipment issues.

The MRC members played a significant role in logistics support, registration and screening assistance, and managing client flow. Feedback from the BHS clinic coordinator and registered nurses who served as vaccinators emphasized that MRC members had helped streamline clinic operations. BHS clinic coordinator and vaccinators described MRC members as qualified, competent and flexible. With the logistical support of MRC members, registered nurses were able to focus on the clinical task of providing injections to clients.

Although MRC members in general were deployed during the vaccination response, registered nurses in the MRC were requested relatively little, possibly missing opportunities to increase capacity for mass clinics.

As university planners integrate lessons learned from the H1N1 response, they will consider including more registered nurses in the MRC to supplement BHS temporary on-call nurses and increase vaccination capacity, and investigating the possibility of instituting an on-call roster of MRC registered nurses on mass vaccination clinic days. Should wait times and lines lengthen, MRC registered nurses who have agree to be listed on an on-call roster could be called up to staff clinics alongside BHS nurses.

Based on the positive results noted by health services employees, they will consider including MRC members in future mass vaccination clinics as well.

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