Six years ago, Israel’s volunteer emergency medical services (EMS) organization, United Hatzalah, made waves in Rambam hospital when they began a program that significantly cut down waiting times in the emergency room (ER) and helped ER nurses treat patients faster. What has become known as the Hospital Liaison Program, involved volunteer EMTs and paramedics from United Hatzalah volunteering for a minimum of two shifts per month to help streamline basic procedural and medical tasks. The program was highly effective and significantly cut down the waiting time in the ER. Today, the program has expanded greatly and provides aid in 10 hospitals across Israel. Over the next year and a half, that number is expected to double.

“The goal of the program is to help ER nurses treat patients faster while at the same time providing invaluable experience for our EMS personnel,” explained Chani Levanon, Director of United Hatzalah’s Hospital Liaison Project. “The program allows the nurses to be able to better manage patient intake, provide treatment faster, and streamline basic procedures, while at the same time providing the EMTs and paramedics who participate with valuable hands on experience with trauma cases and patients suffering from shock. For EMTs who work in areas with a lower amount of traumatic cases, this experience can be invaluable. It is a win-win situation for everyone,” Levanon continued.

“We are currently running the project in ten hospitals and in the process of bringing the program to another four. In addition, we have been invited to start the program in four other ones who approached us and wanted us to send EMTs to their ERs as well. We have been very happy with the responses from the hospitals and the project seems to just keep growing,” added Levanon. “In the next year and a half the program is expected to double and be initiated at another 10 hospitals.”

United Hatzalah’s goal is to help the community provide better emergency medical responses, and this includes helping out in hospitals. The organization has set aside a good amount of resources in order to encourage its community of 3,000 emergency medical service (EMS) volunteers to participate in the hospital liaison project. “In addition to having special meet-ups for the EMS volunteers who participate in the program, we also have a monthly award given out to the volunteer who helps out the most in each hospital. In addition, some of the hospitals have opened up special enrichment classes for the medics who come to volunteer. The classes can cost thousands of shekel per person and the volunteers receive it at a highly discounted rate. This is just one example of the gratitude shown to us by the hospital.”

According to Levanon, United Hatzalah also offers discounts on its planned group or chapter activities to the medics who volunteer at hospitals, as well as covering all of the extra insurance costs that the volunteer will need when they are working at the hospital. “We want to honor the volunteers who go this extra mile and volunteer extra time above and beyond what they already do for United Hatzalah. We want to make it as easy as possible for them to help out in the hospitals, and we are doing everything we can to make that happen.”

In the past year, 174 United Hatzalah medics were active in the program, and together they worked 1,761 shifts as part of the liaison program. The difference felt in the emergency rooms was palpable. “We really are making a difference,” said Levanon, “The hospitals know it, our volunteer medics know it, and most importantly the patients feel it.”