Israeli study tour a 'profound success' for VU paramedics

Victoria University’s paramedic students are taught there’s no such thing as a typical day at work. 

And 15 of them discovered that beyond doubt during their recent three-week study tour to Israel’s official emergency response and national rescue service, Magen David Adom (MDA).

During a time of unexpected heightened tensions in the region, the students experienced air raids and witnessed community emergency safety procedures they would rarely see in Australia. However, the students were safe at all times as certain areas including Gaza were identified as ‘no-go-zones’, and students didn’t attend any incidents directly attributable to war or terrorism.

Associate Professor Gavin Smith, who accompanied the students, said the group hadn’t anticipated witnessing the MDA’s national disaster response first-hand, nor seeing the little-publicised collaboration between Jewish and Muslim paramedics to treat people of all races or religious affiliations without prejudice.

“This tour was profoundly successful since all the objectives were met and in some cases exceeded,” he said. “The students gained valuable insights into Israel’s pre-hospital emergency care system, and this has greatly enhanced their professionalism and learning.” 

In addition to experiencing day and night shifts at several Tel Aviv and Jerusalem branch locations within MDA, the VU students also visited tourist highlights such as the Dead Sea and Old Jerusalem to better understand the country’s culture and history.

The study tour was part of an innovative partnership recently signed between VU and MDA which will include ongoing visits to Israel for VU paramedic students. It will also involve exchange opportunities for MDA paramedics to come to VU and undertake some clinical experience within Ambulance Victoria, as one of VU's key industry partners. Opportunities will also exist for MDA paramedics to convert their qualification to degree level by undertaking an online VU degree conversion program.

VU College of Health and Biomedicine’s Associate Professor Peter Hartley said the memorandum of understanding signed between VU and MDA in early July will provide work experience placements like no other for VU’s paramedic students.

“We could have partnered with other overseas organisations but we wanted to offer our students an outstanding clinical and cultural experience from a world-recognised emergency service,” he said.    

Associate Professor Hartley said eventually the partnership will include collaborative research using VU researchers accessing an “amazing amount of incredible data the MDA holds” which can be turned into evidence-based studies to benefit the profession in both countries.

While the MDA has some 1,200 paramedics and emergency physicians at 95 stations and in more than 700 ambulances around Israel, it relies heavily on more than 12,000 volunteers for both operational and administrative roles.

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