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Disaster preparedness: Are retired physicians willing to help?

Elena M. Shephard, MD, MPH, Eileen J. Klein, MD, MPH, Kathryn G. Koelemay, MD, MPH, Jack Thompson, MSW

Abstract


Objective: To identify the proportion of retired physicians belonging to a state-wide professional association who would be willing to volunteer in the event of a disaster.
Methods: A paper-based, self-administered questionnaire sent to all physicians listed as retired members of the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA). The main questions included whether subjects would be willing to volunteer during a disaster, which tasks they would be most willing to perform, and whether they would be willing to participate in disaster preparedness training.
Results: A total of 2,443 surveys were mailed, 2,274 arrived at their destination (169 were undeliverable), and 1,447 were returned (response rate 64 percent). Fifty-four percent of respondents reported they would be willing to perform healthcare tasks during a disaster and 24 percent of respondents said they would possibly be willing to help. Tasks retired physicians were most willing to assist with included minor wound care (85 percent), vaccine administration (74 percent), and starting intravenous lines (71 percent). Fewer respondents indicated willingness to assist with community education (60 percent) or staffing ambulatory clinics (48 percent). Seventy-eight percent indicated they would attend disaster preparedness training.
Conclusions: Healthcare facilities must be prepared to cope with staffing shortages in the event of a disaster and volunteers such as retired physicians could fill crucial roles in a medical response plan. The majority of retired physicians surveyed would be willing to participate. They would be most willing to perform well-defined tasks directly related to patient care. Most would be willing to participate in preparatory training.


Keywords


emergency preparedness, surge capacity, personnel

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/ajdm.2009.0040

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