Volunteer Practitioner Database

Volunteer Liability Coverage | Access and Activation | Privacy | Contact Us

Introduction & Purpose

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001 licensed practitioners from across the state volunteered their services to respond to the crisis. It became apparent to the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) that unless these practitioners were already a member of a local or state public health preparedness team that were trained and prepared, most practitioners could not be effectively mobilized.

To this end, NYSNA, in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) developed a statewide Public Health Preparedness Volunteer Practitioner Database of registered nurses willing to volunteer their services in the event of a public health emergency. The purpose of this Volunteer Practitioner Database (NurseResponse) is to assure that the entire State has adequate resources to prepare for and respond to any public health emergency, whether it is a declared disaster or other non-declared emergency affecting public health. Volunteers could be needed to respond to natural disasters, accidents, or terrorist attacks, and during events where operations are compromised by physical damage, loss of electrical power, or other causes. Emergencies might range from single-jurisdictional events such as a single anthrax letter to regional events such as a multi-county ice storm, to statewide events such as a severe hurricane. The Volunteer Practitioner Database will be used for two purposes:

  1. to recruit volunteers to specific response roles - for example, to pre-identify nurses to staff mass vaccination or other similar clinics, and;
  2. to identify nurses willing to respond to a public health emergency at the time of an event.

The types of nursing skills needed for each emergency are situation dependent. The lengths of time for volunteer service will depend on specific events. Skills and expertise necessary for emergencies may include pediatrics, clinic management, mass vaccination, trauma, home health care, medical-surgical, burns, mass casualty, etc. There are also roles for those who would like to share their knowledge with others through a speakers' bureau and that have experience in public health preparedness, decontamination, and other issues that would support preparation and response to public health emergencies.

By enrolling in the database a registered nurse would be indicating their willingness to volunteer their time and professional skill in an emergency in their county and/or possibly in another location where their assistance is needed. Enrolling places a registered nurse under no legal obligation to volunteer. Since the inception of this volunteer database it has been expanded to include other licensed medical professionals and is no longer limited to nurses.

Volunteer Liability Coverage

In April 2004, the Department of Health received an opinion from the Attorney General’s office that confirmed the application of Public Officers Law § 17 to the New York State Department of Health Volunteer Practitioner Database. Public Officers Law § 171 provides defense and indemnification to employees of the State for acts or omissions that occur while the employee was acting within the scope of his/her employment or official duties. The definition of employee includes those volunteers “expressly authorized to participate in a State sponsored volunteer program.” Any licensed health care professional2 volunteer who is a part of the volunteer database and who is activated and authorized to act by NYSDOH during an emergency will be afforded the benefits provided by P.O. L.§ 173. Therefore, by enrolling in the State’s Public Health Preparedness Volunteer Practitioner Program volunteers are afforded defense and indemnification when activated and deployed by New York State pursuant to Public Officers Law § 17.

However, where injury occurs because of his or her intentional wrongdoing or recklessness, the volunteer would not be covered under Public Officers Law § 17. When Public Officers Law § 17 applies, the State is not substituted as the defendant in the action; the volunteer is the named defendant. The State, through the Attorney General’s office, provides a legal defense (attorney, assistance, etc.) for the volunteer. Should the injured individual prevail at trial, the judgment would be against the individual volunteer, but because the State provides indemnification, the State would pay the judgment and not the volunteer.

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Access and Activation

The NYSDOH will maintain the Volunteer Practitioner Database on the department’s Health Information Network (HIN) that is a secure, Internet accessible system. NYSDOH will initiate the activation of volunteer practitioners in the event of an emergency via the department’s Health Provider Network (HPN) and direct the deployment of practitioners in the event there are multiple, simultaneous demands from different parts of the state (all volunteers will need to apply for an HPN account). Participating volunteer practitioners will then provide services under the direction of the State, City or local health department or emergency management office or hospital to which they have been deployed by NYSDOH.

Local health departments may access the Volunteer Practitioner Database to identify registered nurses within their county who have indicated they are willing to become a member of a local public health emergency preparedness team. Local health departments will be restricted to nurses’ name, specialty and address information.

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NYSDOH restricts access to the volunteer contact information in the volunteer database to prevent the unnecessary disclosure of this information. Restricted information includes a volunteer’s business or personal pager, business or personal cell phone, home phone and home address. Select NYSDOH staff will have full access to the data for management, activation and deployment purposes. Identified staff from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the County Health Departments and the State and County Emergency Management Offices has restricted access to the data as described above. By enrolling in the volunteer program a nurse authorizes the NYSDOH to share information, such as licensure status, credentialing, and hospital affiliation with the agency or organization to which they may be deployed during an emergency.

The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) does not gather information about you on this site. All information gathered is for use by NYSDOH and its agents listed above. NYSNA will not contact you for the purposes of membership solicitation. We may contact you with information specific to NurseResponse or related bioterrorism activities, pursuent to NYSDOH guidelines. Also, we reserve the right to contact you if you purposely contact us via email or phone in relation to this program. By clicking on either of the enrollment links below, you will be taken to a site managed and maintained by the NYSDOH.

Please choose from one of the following:

Currently Enrolled
with an
HPN account
New Enrollment
To enroll in NurseResponse you will first be asked to apply for an HPN Medical Professions Account and then to complete a Volunteer Application

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1 P.O. L.§ 17 protection will be available provided the requisite criteria are met (e.g., activated and deployed by NYSDOH, no intentional wrongdoing, timely notice to the AG’s office).
2 Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians, etc.
3 P.O. L.§ 17 protection will be available provided the requisite criteria are met (e.g., activated and deployed by NYSDOH, no intentional wrongdoing, timely notice to the AG’s office).