Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners

Thank you, Volunteers!

From 2020-2022, thousands of volunteers offered their time, labor, and expertise to support the COVID-19 pandemic response in Washington state. Emergency volunteer health practitioners undoubtedly saved lives by supporting our strained healthcare system and increasing access to vaccines.

The Department of Health joins millions of Washingtonians in offering our deepest gratitude to these volunteers.

Updates

September 21, 2022

To support the end of the emergency proclamations and the related state of emergency on October 31, 2022, the Department of Health will stop processing new COVID-19 volunteer medical practitioner registrations in WAserv as of September 30, 2022.

September 16, 2022

On Sep. 8, Governor Inslee announced that all remaining COVID-19 emergency proclamations and the related state of emergency will end by October 31, 2022.

For volunteers, this means that the following will no longer apply:

  • Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioner Act, Chapter 70.15 RCW, which authorizes the use of volunteer health practitioners who are licensed in this state or in others to respond to a Governor-proclaimed emergency and provides liability protections for those registered and activated as emergency volunteer healthcare providers.
  • Chapter 38.52.180 RCW, which provides liability protections for Medical Reserve Corps volunteers when responding to a disaster and registered with their local Department of Emergency Management.

Please see below to learn what this means for you and recommended next steps.

Non-medical Community Health Volunteers

Discontinue COVID-19 emergency volunteer activities by October 31, 2022. You will no longer have liability protections after this date. DOH will deactivate your volunteer profile.

Health Practitioner Volunteers with Active In-state Licenses

Discontinue COVID-19 emergency volunteer activities by October 31, 2022. DOH will deactivate your volunteer profile.

Continue to follow all rules and regulations that apply to your work and license.

Out-of-state Health Practitioner Volunteers

DOH will deactivate your volunteer profile. Discontinue COVID-19 emergency volunteer activities by October 31, 2022.

If you do not wish to continue practicing in Washington state - no action is required.

If you do wish to continue practicing in Washington state - you will need professional licensure in Washington state.

  • Nurses: Online Application Portal for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, advanced registered nurse practitioners, and nursing technicians.
    • Please note: applications are reviewed and processed in order of date received, and processing cannot be expedited. When all application requirements are met, a temporary practice permit is typically issued in 7-9 calendar days. Applications missing requirements may take additional time to review and process. To avoid a lapse in practice we encourage you to submit your application for Washington State license as early as possible.
  • Non-nursing health care practitioners: Please see the licensing page for your profession for details on how to apply.

Health Care Organizations and Facilities

Discontinue any related COVID-19 emergency volunteer activities by October 31, 2022.

You may continue working with volunteers after October 31, 2022, so long as a) volunteers are properly licensed to practice in Washington state, b) you replace liability coverage previously provided under RCW 70.15, and c) you understand that DOH, WAserv, and the Volunteer Management program no longer have any responsibility for volunteers after October 31st.

Please share this information with any volunteers you have worked with as part of this emergency response.

Frequently Asked Questions for Volunteers

What if I don't have a license in a U.S. State or territory, but am licensed in another country?

Only healthcare providers who are licensed in a U.S. state or territory can volunteer through this program.

How is workers compensation covered?

Worker compensation costs for volunteers in paid assignments are covered by the host facility that is paying their wage.

Are volunteers covered for liability or injury?

Volunteers activated during a declared emergency: Chapter 70.15 RCW provides immunity from liability for volunteers who register and are activated as emergency volunteer healthcare providers, excluding willful and wanton misconduct and gross negligence.

PREP Act volunteers: The PREP Act (for health care workers with expired or inactive licenses administering COVID-19 vaccines) provides broad immunity from suit and liability under federal and state law to those engaged in activities aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteers: In Washington State, RCW 38.52.180 provides liability and immunity protections for covered medical and non-medical / support volunteers, when training and responding to disasters. In order to be covered, volunteers must be registered with their local Department of Emergency Management (DEM). Signing up with WAserv does not automatically register you for liability and immunity purposes. However, WAserv may facilitate this process in advance for their volunteers. In some cases, registrations can be completed “just in time” for emergency volunteers if the situation warrants.

Is this the only option for bringing temporary medical workers into Washington to respond to emergency events?

The Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioner (authorized under RCW 70.15) is just one option for increasing the number of healthcare workforce to help respond to emergency events in Washington State. Other options include:

  • Temporary Practice Permits (RCW 18.130.075) allows the person to practice their full scope of their profession for up to 180 days. We encourage health facilities to plan ahead for this option if they are considering bringing in staff who work for their organization in other states. See more information on temporary practice permits.
  • Health Care Practitioner Compacts - Allows health care practitioners licensed in other compact jurisdictions to obtain a license quickly. Currently, only physicians (MD/DO) and physical therapists are part of interstate compacts.
How long will I be activated for?

This will vary based on the needs of each volunteer activation. Specific details will be shared before a volunteer commits to being activated.

Are travel costs and other expenses covered?

The healthcare facility (host entity) will be responsible for covering expenses.

What is the scope of practice for the Emergency Healthcare Practitioner Volunteers?
  • Volunteers will need to work within scope of Washington State Law for each provider type, unless the scope of practice is narrower in their home state, and then the volunteer would need to work within the narrower scope.
  • The host entity/facility will need to ensure volunteers work within scope of practice.
  • The Department of Health is authorized to modify scope of practice if needed. This will be determined on a situation by situation basis.
Can an emergency volunteer health practitioner be paid?

It depends on any existing contractual relationship between the emergency volunteer health practitioner and the healthcare facility (host entity) for a specific volunteer assignment.

  • A practitioner can provide unpaid services to any Washington State healthcare facility (host entity) and qualify as an emergency volunteer health practitioner under chapter 70.15 RCW, provided all requirements are met.
  • An out-of-state licensed health practitioner may provide services for compensation to a host entity in Washington and qualify as a volunteer health practitioner under chapter 70.15 RCW as long as he or she does not have a preexisting employment relationship with the Washington host entity or an affiliate that requires the practitioner to provide health services in Washington. Practitioners should review the terms of their employment relationships to determine whether they are required to provide services in Washington.
  • A practitioner does not qualify under chapter 70.15 RCW if the practitioner is compensated under a preexisting employment relationship with a host entity or affiliate which requires the practitioner to provide health services in Washington, unless the practitioner is a non-Washington resident employed by a disaster relief organization. RCW 70.15.010(16).
  • A practitioner who is licensed in another state and is contracted to provide services at a facility in another state may practice without a Washington license at a facility in Washington that owns, is owned by, or is affiliated with the out-of-state facility where they normally work, provided that his or her employment relationship does not require him or her to provide services in Washington. For example, a health system with a hospital in Washington and a hospital in Idaho may bring Idaho-licensed practitioners whose contracts do not require them to provide services in Washington from its Idaho hospital to provide services in its Washington hospital and those practitioners would qualify as volunteer health practitioners under chapter 70.15 RCW.

Please note: All eligible practitioners or employees must register in WAserv as an Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioner. The Department of Health decides where and for how long volunteer health practitioners are activated.

For a paid out-of-state licensed health care provider to be covered by RCW 70.15, he or she must meet the following requirements:

  • Not have a preexisting employment relationship with the health care entity that requires the practitioner to provide services in Washington. Paid providers can qualify as emergency volunteer health practitioners under RCW 70.15. Unpaid emergency volunteer health practitioners under RCW 70.15 can provide care essentially anywhere and for any entity in Washington.
  • Be licensed in another state and be in good standing in every state in which he/she is licensed.
  • All eligible practitioners or employees must register to serve as an Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioner and then be registered in the Department of Health's volunteer health practitioner system before starting to practice in Washington or provide services to Washington patients.
  • Unless modified or restricted by the Department of Health, health care practitioners must adhere to the scope of practice of the equivalent license type in this state, though not outside the scope allowed by his/her state of licensure.
Can health practitioners licensed in Washington serve as emergency volunteer health practitioners?

Yes. A practitioner licensed in Washington can provide unpaid services to any host entity and qualify as a volunteer health practitioner under RCW 70.15, provided all requirements are met.

A practitioner licensed in Washington can be paid as an emergency volunteer health practitioner under chapter 70.15 RCW if he or she provides services to a Washington host entity or affiliate with which the practitioner does not have a preexisting employment relationship that requires the practitioner to provide services in Washington, provided all requirements are met. For example, if Hospital A and Hospital Z, both in Washington, are not affiliated or associated in terms of ownership, Hospital A could send its in-state licensed employees to work at Hospital Z and those employees would qualify under chapter 70.15 RCW, provided that Hospital Z pays them and they do not have an employment relationship with Hospital Z or an affiliate requiring them to provide services in Washington.

All eligible practitioners or employees must register in WAserv to serve as an Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioner.

Health care providers hired by a host entity for the specific purpose of responding to a Governor-proclaimed state of emergency qualify as volunteer health practitioners and can register under chapter 70.15 RCW, the Uniform Volunteer Health Practitioner Act, even if hired before registration.

A health care provider who is licensed in good standing out-of-state and hired by a host entity for the specific purpose of responding to a Governor-proclaimed state of emergency in Washington qualifies as a volunteer health practitioner and can register under chapter 70.15 RCW, the Uniform Volunteer Health Practitioner Act, even if hired before registration. Once registered, the provider may practice in Washington without obtaining a Washington license.

When the Governor issues a proclamation of a state of emergency under authority granted by RCW 43.06.010, the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act, chapter 70.15 RCW, authorizes volunteer health practitioners who hold a license in good standing in another state or U.S. jurisdiction to register with the Department of Health and practice in Washington State without obtaining a license in this state. To qualify and register with the Department of Health as a volunteer health practitioner, an individual cannot receive compensation pursuant to a preexisting employment relationship with a host entity or affiliate which requires them to provide health services in Washington State, unless the practitioner is not a resident of Washington State and is employed by a disaster relief organization providing services in Washington State while a Governor-proclaimed state of emergency is in effect.

Will I have to quarantine after I have served?

Movement and monitoring decisions for emergency volunteer health practitioners with exposure to COVID-19 should be made in consultation with public health authorities. Review the most current Interim U.S. Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Healthcare Personnel with Potential Exposure in a Healthcare Setting to Patients with 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

Can volunteers decline an activation?

Yes. Volunteers can decline any specific activation.

Frequently Asked Questions for Health Care Facilities

Who decides where an emergency volunteer health practitioner is assigned when they are activated?

The Department of Health has the authority to regulate any matters necessary to coordinate the provision of health services during an emergency with respect to volunteer health practitioners, including where they work, for how long they work, and what types of practitioners may practice. Under RCW 70.15.030, a health system may bring in out-of-state employees, and DOH regulates how they are used during an emergency. A health system is not entitled to have exclusive use of its out-of-state volunteer health practitioners, although it may be likely that the department and the health system will agree with that allocation of the workers.

Can volunteers provide telehealth and virtual care services?

Emergency volunteer health practitioners providing services for host entities operating in Washington under the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act, chapter 70.15 RCW, are authorized to offer telehealth or virtual care services to patients in Washington to the same extent that practitioners licensed in Washington are authorized to offer such services. Practitioners must be affiliated with a host entity operating in Washington to provide telehealth services. Practitioners should contact the board, commission, or Department of Health program that governs their profession in Washington with any questions.

Some professions have guidelines for telehealth services, including the Medical Commission, Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission, and Examining Board of Psychology. Emergency volunteer health practitioners within these professions are authorized to provide telehealth services under these guidelines and do not need a Washington license to do so.

Other federal and state agencies regulate the use of telehealth services and technology for Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurance and payment-related purposes. The Department of Health does not generally enforce or provide guidance on these requirements but provides the following information that may be relevant to practitioners:

Will I get the specialty service/personnel I request?

The more unique the skill set, the less likely you are to get an exact match. Overall the goal is to help bridge the staffing/personnel shortage facilities have due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We recommend you request personnel with the least required qualifications that can support your critical staffing need.

How long will it take for me to get a volunteer?

We will try to identify a volunteer for your request in several days, but it will be dependent on a number of factors including, the number of available volunteers, specific qualifications needed, if the volunteer has to travel to another geographic area, and competing demands for the volunteers.

What type of orientation should I provide for the volunteer?

Facilities should provide activated volunteers with a briefing at the beginning of their assignment with specific instructions on their assignment, including emergency contact information and what to do if they get sick.

The volunteer will not know your facility, so it is important for you to review emergency codes and procedures. Please also provide any life safety training you typically provide for new staff orientation. This will help keep patients, staff, and the volunteer safe. Please provide a tour of your facility including emergency exits, door access codes, and computer/network codes needed for them to support your facility.

What is the scope of practice for the Emergency Healthcare Practitioner Volunteer?
  • Volunteers will need to work within scope of Washington State Law for each provider type, unless the scope of practice is narrower in their home state, and then the volunteer would need to work within the narrower scope.
  • As the host facility, you will need to ensure the volunteer is aware of the scope of their licensing standards and policies within your facility and practice within those guidelines.
  • EMS providers will need to work under the local county protocol for their level of certification.
What do I do when the volunteer arrives?

Since a review of the licensing website will not indicate the volunteer has a Washington license, it is important to verify their identity.

Activated volunteers will get an activation notification from the Department of Health. Validate identification of the volunteer with the volunteer names provided to your facility to ensure their identity.

What do I do if the volunteer becomes ill or is unable to work when scheduled?

If the volunteer becomes ill, you should notify the Department of Health Volunteer Coordinator at WAserv@doh.wa.gov. Your facility should follow your own infection control guidelines for care and isolation of the volunteer.

If the volunteer practitioners are not licensed in WA, do they need to complete any state requirements, like the required HIV/AIDS training and the suicide assessment/treatment/prevention training?

No, this training is not required as part of the 70.15 Emergency Healthcare Practitioner Volunteer program.

If volunteer practitioners want to extend their time here, who do they contact?

All volunteers will be given an orientation when assigned to your facility that will include contact information for who to go to if anything changes. If you and the volunteer agree to the extension, the department will accommodate that request.

What if the volunteer is no longer needed or decides to leave earlier than planned?

Notify the Department of Health Volunteer Coordinator at WAServ@doh.wa.gov.

If volunteer practitioners want to get licensed in Washington, where do they apply?

They would apply through the normal licensing processes, including considering if a temporary practice permit or a healthcare practitioner compact is an option for them. See the licensing page for each profession for more information.

Can the volunteer work independently in my facility?

Although we know you are requesting the volunteer due to support critical unfillable resource needs, please consider assigning the volunteer someone to serve as a go-to resource to answer questions and become familiar with your facility.

What should I consider for patient and volunteer safety?
  • The volunteer can refuse an assignment if it seems unsafe or outside their skill set.
  • It is the facility's responsibility to provide appropriate personal protective equipment for the volunteer.
  • Ensure the volunteer knows who to ask at your facility if they have questions or concerns and how to get in touch with that individual.
  • Consider work hours and methods to prevent errors related to fatigue of the volunteer and other healthcare workers.