The Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP) is a federal program created to support states and territories in establishing standardized volunteer registration programs for disasters and public health and medical emergencies.
The program, administered on the state level, verifies health professionals' identification and credentials so that they can respond more quickly when disaster strikes. By registering through ESAR-VHP, volunteers' identities, licenses, credentials, accreditations, and hospital privileges are all verified in advance, saving valuable time in emergency situations.
Why do we need ESAR-VHP?
In the wake of disasters and public health and medical emergencies, many of our nation's health professionals are eager and willing to volunteer their services. And in these times of crisis, hospitals, clinics, and temporary shelters are dependent upon the services of health professional volunteers. However, on such short notice, taking advantage of volunteers' time and capabilities presents a major challenge to hospital, public health, and emergency response officials.
For example, immediately after the attacks on September 11, 2001, tens of thousands of people traveled to ground zero in New York City to volunteer and provide medical assistance. In most cases, authorities were unable to distinguish those who were qualified from those who were not – no matter how well intentioned.
There are significant problems associated with registering and verifying the credentials of health professional volunteers immediately following major disasters or emergencies. Specifically, hospitals and other facilities may be unable to verify basic licensing or credentialing information, including training, skills, competencies, and employment. Further, the loss of telecommunications may prevent contact with sources that provide credential or privilege information.
The goal of the ESAR-VHP program is to eliminate a number of the problems that arise when mobilizing health professional volunteers in an emergency response.
ESAR-VHP works with states to establish a national network of state-based programs for pre-registration of volunteer health professionals. Working within this network of verified credentials and up-to-date information, volunteers are able to serve at a moment's notice, within their state or across state lines, to provide needed help during an emergency.
ESAR-VHP aims to:
1. Help Health Professionals
While volunteers are focused on the emergency at hand, it is also important that health professionals protect themselves before helping others.
By registering with ESAR-VHP, health volunteers' information is recorded in a state registry maintained and utilized in a manner consistent with all federal, state, and local laws governing security and confidentiality.
2. Help Health Employers
Hospitals and emergency operations are left scrambling to find qualified medical assistance in times of crisis. With the ESAR-VHP program, healthcare facilities and emergency management are able to request the help and specific skill sets they need to assist them and better serve the people in their community. State ESAR-VHP programs can then match the best volunteer candidate for the job. Specifically authorized personnel will be able to review:
- Identity and contact information
- Licensing information
- Credentials (training, skill level, competencies)
3. Help State Coordinators
Most disasters and public health and medical emergencies are local. The ESAR-VHP program provides each state the ability to quickly identify, contact, and deploy health professional volunteers during disasters and public health and medical emergencies. Using a common set of standards in the ESAR-VHP registry, state coordinators facilitate the deployment of willing, needed, and qualified health professional volunteers for any emergency.
Who manages ESAR-VHP?
Formerly under the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), ESAR-VHP is now administered by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). ASPR assists each state and territory in establishing a standardized, volunteer registration program.
For more information on ESAR-VHP, program organization, and program guidelines, read our frequently asked questions.
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