Israel’s military is considering launching a pilot program in October that will see male and female nurses join doctors and paramedics in providing medical care behind enemy lines.
The program, funded by the IDF and the Health Ministry, will have nurses study for three years before they are integrated into front-line battalions and cross behind enemy lines, if necessary.
With this program, said a senior officer in the IDF Technology and Logistics Division, doctors will be able to focus on life-saving tasks instead of those that can be done by nurses, such as monitoring vital signs, starting intravenous lines and dressing wounds.
“This program has very big potential,” he said, explaining that the military hopes to see about 100 nurses per draft.
Like the country’s healthcare system, the IDF is critically short of physicians and nurses. A 2017 report by military ombudsman Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick found that one doctor treats approximately 1,200 soldiers, making soldiers wait weeks or even months before they are able to see a medical professional.
The IDF military’s technology and logistics branch is also improving medical procedures and devices in order to minimize the number of preventable deaths among soldiers during wartime.
According to the senior officer, 83% of soldiers die due to preventable blood loss within an hour of being wounded, and the IDF is therefore trying to improve the medical evacuation procedures of injured soldiers during war.
Within a new framework developed by the IDF, each battalion will be equipped with two armored combat vehicles that will be used to evacuate the injured. According to the senior officer, the decision to use vehicles rather than helicopters was due in part to the increased aerial threat posed by the enemy.
In addition to doctors and paramedics who are with soldiers behind enemy lines on the squad and battalion level, the military will establish a new company for the evacuation of the wounded back to Israeli territory, where they will receive intensive medical care before being evacuated for further treatment.
The IDF has also introduced advanced and expensive equipment, providing each combat soldier with combat application tourniquets that cost more than NIS 2,000 each. It will also provide doctors with dry plasma that can be turned into liquid blood for emergency transfusions on the battlefield with the addition of water.
IDF introduces new technology to treat soldiers in the field, August 27, 2018 (IDF Spokesperson)
Another device being tested by the IDF is a “smart sticker,” which can be attached to an injured soldier and provide doctors with all relevant information regarding the patient’s condition.
The military has also begun testing a drone that can carry 40-50 kilograms of medical equipment or medicine to troops behind enemy lines without exposing more soldiers.
While the IDF’s medical drone prototype is not yet operational, “If there was an operation tomorrow, I would use it,” the senior officer said.
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