The New Hampshire – 1 Disaster Medical Assistance team (NH-1) is looking for 40 new clinical members to complete its roster and become a standalone operational unit that can be deployed by the federal government within 24 hours anywhere in the United States.
Pharmacist Rick Potter typifies the type of health care professional the team hopes to recruit. The tri-state team is part of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and includes members from New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.
NH-1 team members were activated and deployed by HHS to a hurricane shelter in the Bronx, N.Y. after Hurricane Sandy. Potter filled prescriptions for up to 16 hours a day in a cramped, secured room not much bigger a walk-in closet guarded by armed federal agents. He dispensed antibiotics, pain medication, vaccine, anti-anxiety agents and continually improvised to fill missing maintenance medications for long-term care patients misplaced in the wake of the storm.
Many of the hundreds of prescriptions Potter filled involved calling local pharmacies and tracking down prescriptions for evacuees who arrived without any information on what drugs they were taking, when they were needed, and how much they were routinely prescribed.
“The mind set on deployment,” Potter said, “is to keep thinking about your goal which, in pharmacy is the right drug to right patient .... Sometimes it is not the ‘best’ but can still be a ‘right’ one. We work with the outcomes in mind and how you get there is just the path.
“While people count on you, you are never alone. The team - and the teamwork is incredible.”
Potter’s portable pharmacy became a place where physicians, nurses and emergency medical technicians congregated before, during and after their 12 hours shifts. Potter remained nonplussed by the cramped confines of his space and the consistent demands on his time.
“Rick is a prototype DMAT team member,” said Robert Gougelet, MD, Acting Team Leader of the NH-1 team and a member of NDMS since 1980. “You want the person beside you to be able, when tired, when wiped out, when annoyed, to set all that aside and get the job done. Everyone will have to improvise and overcome hurdles, over and over again. The team we have in place now – to a person – can and will do that.”
NH-1 recruits medical professionals with a broad array of expertise in emergency and wilderness medicine, toxicology, pharmacology, EMS, respiratory therapy, orthopedics, trauma and emergency nursing, and radiological protection. The team looks for people who have the ability to work in an austere environment and adapt to situations where infrastructures and common practices have been disabled or rendered useless.
NDMS team members must be prepared to rapidly deploy and provide on scene medical care or strengthen medical surge capacity for hospital or EMS units in the event of an intentional attack or mass casualty incident in the United States.
For more information about NDMS, visit phe.gov/ndms and to learn more about the team or to apply to NH-1 visit nh1dmat.org.
Media Contact: Robert Stirewalt, NH-1 DMAT, Public Information Officer, 802-316-2128