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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Become a Volunteer

Become an MRC Volunteer

Local health, safety and preparedness begins with you

Become a part of the Medical Reserve Corps, a national network of volunteer medical professionals, public health experts, and others who help make their communities stronger and healthier during disasters and every day. Local MRC volunteers are trained as part of a team and work within their community’s health, preparedness, and response infrastructures to help meet local medical and public health needs during emergencies. MRC volunteers also promote preparedness in their communities to improve everyday health, reducing potential public health risks and vulnerabilities.

​   MRC map

I’m in! How do I get started?

Find a local MRC unit near you and contact the unit coordinator to learn
more about local volunteer opportunities and the registration process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I volunteer?

You've worked hard in your career to master a variety of skills – in medicine, public health, safety, logistics, communications or a number of other areas. Volunteering with the Medical Reserve Corps is a simple and effective way to use and improve those skills, while helping to keep your family, friends and neighbors safe and healthy. For example, you may put those skills to use during an emergency, or while providing services for the most vulnerable members of your community. People volunteer for many reasons, but some volunteer for the MRC because:

  • It's a way to offer their skills that might not have been used before because they were not adequately prepared to be part of the response effort.
  • It's a significant benefit to communities because skilled volunteers offer services during the year to augment existing public health efforts or provide emergency backup that would not otherwise be available.
  • It's a chance to belong to a group with a strong sense of mission and purpose. Volunteers are at the very heart of the MRC. The existence of this nationwide, community-based network is due to the willingness of volunteers to serve their communities in times of need.

What would I do as a volunteer?

MRC volunteers train ─ individually and with other members of the unit ─ in order to improve their skills, knowledge and abilities. Sometimes the training is coursework, and other times it is part of a drill or exercise conducted with partner organizations in the community. Continuing education units and credits are even available for some programs.

Many MRC volunteers assist with activities to improve public health in their community – increasing health literacy, supporting prevention efforts, and eliminating health disparities. In an emergency, local resources get called upon first, sometimes with little or no warning. As a member of an MRC unit, you can be part of an organized and trained team that responds during a disaster or public health emergency. You will be ready and able to bolster local emergency planning and response capabilities.

The specific role that you will play, and the activities in which you will participate, will depend upon your background, interests and skills, as well as the needs of the MRC unit and the community.

Who do I volunteer with?

Every MRC unit is led by a local MRC unit coordinator, who matches volunteer capabilities and schedules with local needs for both emergency responses and public health initiatives.

Many MRC members are just like you – nurses, doctors, pharmacists, therapists, public health officials and other community members who believe in keeping your local area healthy, prepared, and resilient. They share your commitment to helping others and making a difference. You may also work closely with staff members from the local health department, emergency management agency, hospital or other organizations that partner with the MRC. In fact, the services that you provide may help these other organizations to meet their mission.

Are there core competencies required to become an MRC volunteer?

The MRC program has developed the MRC Core Competencies, which is a suggested guide for training MRC volunteers at the local level. Core competencies represent the baseline level of knowledge and skills that all MRC volunteers should have, regardless of their roles within the MRC unit. They also provide a framework for unit training and assist in describing what communities can expect of their MRCs. Because the core competencies establish only a minimum standard, units may choose to expand on the competencies in order to train volunteers at a more advanced level. Units may also choose to link the MRC core competencies to other existing sets of competencies for health professionals. For more information, please view the MRC Core Competencies.

What type of training is available for MRC volunteers?

All MRC volunteers need to undergo some form of orientation to the MRC, which includes an overview of the system in which the MRC's activities occur, whether in relation to emergency response or public health, or both.

Support/administrative volunteers receive guidance on how to perform their particular functions, which vary depending on the needs of particular communities. They may need to participate in practice drills if their duties interface with those of the front-line/direct-service volunteers. Overall, the training includes support skills training, communications, and Incident Command System, or other local command systems.

Training requirements for front-line/direct-service volunteers is typically extensive and specialized. Generally, these volunteers receive training in primary emergency response and public health procedures, including basic life support and CPR; identifying the signs, symptoms, and treatment of hazardous materials (including nuclear, biological, and chemical agents); and basic first aid skills to deal with emergencies such as shock, allergic reactions, bleeding, broken bones, burns, choking, head trauma, heat exhaustion, and more.

Who is liable if I am injured or hurt while serving as an MRC volunteer?

Different localities are subject to different legal liability laws and standards. Liability also is a highly complex area of the law, compounded by innumerable differences at the local level. Understanding and interpreting liability is based on individual cases and varied interpretations of the statutes in specific states. Because the rules and laws vary, it is not possible for the MRC Program Office to provide information applicable to all 50 states and to all jurisdictions within them. State offices may provide information about its liability rules. Some states offer greater protection to medical volunteers than others. Additionally, some response partners may be able to extend the liability and workers compensation privileges that normally apply to regular workers.

Is the MRC volunteer program only for medical or healthcare professionals?

No. The MRC program seeks medical and public health professionals to assist with emergency preparedness and response efforts; however, other volunteers who have no medical or healthcare backgrounds also are needed to properly conduct these efforts. Community members without medical training can assist with administrative, logistics, and other essential support functions.

What type of background do I need to become an MRC volunteer?

The MRC program seeks volunteers to assist with emergency preparedness and response efforts. Volunteers in the MRC program include:

  • Practicing, retired, or otherwise employed medical professionals, such as doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, pharmacists, nurses' assistants, and others
  • Public health professionals
  • Community members without medical training can assist with administrative and other essential support functions

United States citizenship is not required to be part of the MRC. Non-citizen, legal U.S. residents also are welcome to volunteer and contribute their time, knowledge, and skills to protecting and improving their communities.

What do individuals with a medical or healthcare background do as an MRC volunteer?

Major emergencies can overwhelm the capabilities of first responders, particularly during the first 12 to 72 hours. Medical and other health volunteers can provide an important "surge" capacity during this critical period. They also can augment medical staffing shortages at local medical and emergency facilities. In short, communities often need medically trained individuals to fill in the gaps in their emergency response plans and to improve their response capabilities overall.

Possible types of "front-line" medical and public health volunteers include:

  • Physicians (including surgeons, medical specialists, osteopaths)
  • Physician Assistants
  • Nurses (nurse practitioners, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants)
  • Pharmacists
  • Dentists
  • Dental Assistants
  • Optometrists
  • Veterinarians
  • Emergency medical technicians
  • Public health workers
  • Epidemiologists
  • Infectious disease specialists
  • Toxicologists
  • Mental health practitioners (psychologists, substance abuse counselors, social workers)
  • Health educators/communicators
  • Other medical and public health professionals

What do individuals with a non-medical or healthcare background do as an MRC volunteer?

Individuals with a non-medical or healthcare background typically serve their community by assisting with administrative and other essential support functions. Possible types of administrative and other support volunteers include:

  • Administrators and business managers
  • Administrative assistants and office support staff
  • Drivers
  • Chaplains
  • Trainers
  • Volunteer coordinators
  • Fundraising professionals
  • Supply and logistics managers
  • Interpreters/translators
  • Amateur radio operators
  • Other support personnel

Do MRC volunteers only help in disaster time (during emergency situations)?

Although MRC volunteers are ready to respond to disasters or emergencies, part of the MRC program's mission is to foster disaster preparedness. MRC volunteers also are called to help during non-emergency times. During non-emergent times, MRC volunteers strengthen the overall health of Americans by participating in general public health initiatives such as flu vaccination clinics. MRC volunteers also promote improving health literacy, increasing disease prevention, eliminating health disparities, and supporting public health preparedness.

Once I become an MRC volunteer, what happens if I am not available all the time?

Volunteer availability is discussed during the MRC volunteer application process. MRC volunteers do not have to be available all the time. Some volunteers may only be interested in making a minimal commitment during times of crisis or for other specific community needs. These preferences are respected, given that they can be accommodated by the MRC unit's mission and work plan.

Local MRC unit coordinators match community needs for emergency medical response and public health initiatives with volunteer capabilities. They also determine prospective volunteers' availability and whether they have other obligations, such as regular work responsibilities, that might conflict with serving the MRC in times of limited advanced notice. Different people will have different amounts of time to give. Some may not be available year-round, and others may need to be utilized throughout the year to remain engaged with the MRC.

I am interested in becoming an MRC volunteer. What do I do first?

The first step in becoming an MRC volunteer is to locate the closest MRC unit to you. Access the list of registered MRC units to find contact information. Then, contact the local unit coordinator to find out more about volunteer opportunities in your community and the local registration process.

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  • This page last reviewed: July 23, 2021