Leadership | 01.08.21
Meeting the Need
In the early months of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic created a sudden and unprecedented need for medical personnel across the globe. The millions of cases in the United States alone have been distributed unevenly amongst cities and states, leaving the most severely impacted communities in urgent need. The American Medical Association (AMA) Volunteer Guide worked to connect important resources for healthcare professionals who are eager to help.
The AMA COVID-19 volunteer guide for healthcare professionals is an online resource with information about opportunities for physicians and other much-needed clinicians. The initial focus was on gathering resources for the most severely affected states — California, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Washington. Each has its own website, with distinct positions to fill and registration processes to complete.
With these distinctions come varied and ever-changing requirements; but one common need was the capability to verify a prospective volunteer’s credentials quickly. In response, organizations like the AMA and the Federation of State Medical Boards extended their credentialing services to state licensing boards, and eligible state and federal agencies, for free.
As it became clear that out-of-state and retired physicians would play an essential role in the effort to treat and prevent COVID-19, many states temporarily altered their licensing requirements for doctors who are retired, have been clinically inactive, or are licensed in another state. The Center for Medicare Services and state licensing boards also adjusted requirements around licensure for telehealth services rendered across state lines.
The AMA COVID-19 volunteer guide features up-to-date licensure information and educational materials for providers in every U.S. state and territory, in an effort to eliminate barriers between experienced volunteers and communities in need of immediate support. Two of physicians’ most common concerns — liability and ethics — are addressed with curated links and articles.
Healthcare volunteers have always filled important roles, delivering patient care to vulnerable populations that otherwise might not have sufficient access. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, organizations that recruit and mobilize volunteer physicians on a regular basis have accelerated and adapted their efforts — and continue to do so in anticipation of further waves of this illness.
In particular, the AMA volunteer guide includes information on two nonprofit organizations that offer physicians a variety of opportunities to serve communities in need. The MAVEN Project supports safety net clinics by pairing primary care providers at each clinic with experienced volunteer clinicians. Using telehealth, the volunteers offer medical consultation, mentoring, and educational sessions. Volunteers in Medicine America, which operates over 90 free healthcare clinics for the uninsured and medically underserved, began equipping them with telemedicine technology and training when COVID-19 made in-person care difficult.
As the AMA volunteer guide makes clear, healthcare professionals looking to help during this pandemic have a number of ways to leap into action. The need for such an initiative was clear as soon as state governments started calling for help, according to Tammy Weaver, director of database products portfolio at the AMA and one of the key figures behind the guide. “We knew there was an opportunity to assist by coordinating resources and providing access to AMA data,” Weaver said.
Resources like the AMA volunteer guide have a clarifying effect in times of confusion, expediting the processes by which retired, inactive, and out-of-state healthcare professionals can put their expertise to work. “The added benefit to providing these services was the ability to assist some of the hardest-hit areas in some manner,” Weaver said. With rising cases across states, there remains a need for clear and specific guidance for any healthcare professional who wishes to learn about volunteer opportunities.
The JAMA Career Center recently added a volunteer section, where your organization can profile volunteer needs and dedicated job opportunities for volunteer physician care. The Career Advice & Resources Section delivers informative content about the career journey, alongside helpful Resource Guides designed to share COVID-19 insights from the JAMA Network, AMA EdHub, AMA, and many others.
For more information about AMA Credentialing Services and how our AMA Profiles can help save your staff time with physician credentialing and verification, please visit amacredentiliangservices.org.
This article was sponsored by the American Medical Association.