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North Carolina Emergency Nurses Association

Protect Emergency Nurses who Volunteer to Help Their Neighbors, Support the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act Today!

Posted 8 months ago by Karen Drum

  • Emergencies, natural and man-made, are a constant threat to the lives and well-being of┬áhundreds of millions of Americans.
  • In the wake of disasters and public health emergencies, hospitals, clinics and shelters depend on the services of health professional volunteers, including emergency nurses.
  • Current federal law does not provide specific liability protections for health professionals, like emergency nurses, who volunteer their services independently during a disaster.

The Volunteer Protection Act (VPA), was passed in 1997 to encourage volunteerism by limiting a volunteer's risk of being sued for ordinary negligence when they are acting on behalf of a nonprofit organization or governmental entity. The VPA shields affiliated voluneers from civil actions in both federal and state courts. However, volunteers who wish to do so independlty, without being affiliated with a qualififed nonprofit or government entity, are not protected under the VPA. Instead, these volunteers must rely on a patchwork quilt of state Good Samaritan laws that vary across the country. This acts as a barrier to these professionals volunteering when help is needed the most.

The Good Samartitan Health Professionals Act (H.R. 1876/S. 781) would help remove the barrier by providing general liability protections at the state and federal levels for licensed health professionals, including emergency nurses, who volunteer their services during a federally-declared disaster or public health emergency. It does not protect these volunteers for willful or criminal conduct, or if the volunteer was under the influence at the time. By making it easier for licensed health professionals to volunteer, we can increase the number of these critical professionals available to serve when a disaster or emergency strikes, and ease strain on already-taxed health care systems.

Click on the link below to send a letter in support of this law to your state representatives: