COVID-19 highlights Israel’s chronic nursing shortage

COVID-19 highlights Israel’s chronic nursing shortage

Hadassah program offers one solution to nursing shortage while giving a pathway forward for young Ethiopian Israelis.

Participants of Achotenu, the Hadassah  Ethiopian Nurses Scholarship program in Israel.
Participants of Achotenu, the Hadassah Ethiopian Nurses Scholarship program in Israel.

AN initiative of Hadassah Hospital to stem a shortage of nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic while also creating new opportunities for Ethiopian-Israelis was experienced first-hand by Melburnian Michael Krape during a visit to Israel.

The Hadassah Australia National Committee member got a front-row view of how members of Israel’s Ethiopian community have thrived in the nursing profession when he was admitted to Hadassah in early March with suspected COVID-19.

Since 2016, more than 67 Ethiopian-Israelis have become qualified nurses through Achotenu, the Hadassah Australia Ethiopian Nurses Scholarship program, heralding the start of a systemic increase in community participation. Achotenu is part of a wider scholarship program being led by Hadassah Hospital and the United Israel Appeal.

“The first person I encountered at triage was an Ethiopian nurse,” said Krape. “I later discovered she was among the first group of graduates from the Achotenu program.”

According to the OECD, Israel needs at least 1000 additional nurses over the next 10 years if it is to meet the health needs of the community. “You won’t find these nurses in central casting,” said Ruth Rosen, Hadassah Australia’s executive director. “Qualified nurses are university trained and must gain clinical experience, let alone have the skills to deal with patients affected by COVID-19.”

Hadassah’s approach helps resolve Israel’s chronic nursing shortage while at the same time opening a pathway to socio-economic progress for the community.

“This is no longer about giving Ethiopian-Israelis a hand-up and a way to realise their individual and community ambitions,” said Hadassah Australia chair Ron Finkel. “Nor is it solely about Israel building its nursing cohort.

“This is a long-term strategy to prepare Israel and in particular its hospital network to face a global crisis now and in the foreseeable future. Funding these scholarships is a priority if Israel is to prepare for the next wave.” 

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