Having spent the last two years at university learning what it is to be a nurse, I thought the MDA program would be a breeze. When I arrived, I was surrounded by aspiring medical students, biomedical graduates and incredibly gifted human beings who all seemed to be just as eager to get involved with Magen David Adom in Israel, as I was.
Throughout the duration of the training course, I was continually blown away by the knowledge and expertise our instructors had, and how much depth they were able to go into. Despite only being volunteers, and young ones at that, they had command of the classroom like nothing I’ve seen before.
I don’t know if I can pick a favourite point of my volunteer experience, but I certainly can say that the ten days of training were truly fantastic. It was not, in fact, as easy as I had expected! I felt challenged by both my classmates and by the instructors, and was delighted to be learning from a new perspective. We were able to have theory lessons that provided us with a knowledge base, and then practical time to draw on this information and use it. It was a perfect mixture of theory and practical learning.
I felt this really helped us to get to know one another, because we need to trust and help each other when it comes to saving lives. I spent my last night of the training course sitting in a small room with some incredible friends preparing for our exam the next day, and I remember thinking just how lucky I was.
The next day, we said our goodbyes to other volunteers who would be living in different cities around Israel, and to our instructors. Six others and myself set off to live and work in Tel Aviv for the next five weeks. We were lucky enough to be provided accommodation in the heart of Tel Aviv, so the Israeli culture was at our doorstep.
When I first began working at the Basel Street Station I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer size of it, and the number of people working inside this building that slightly resembles a parking lot. The tiny surrounding streets are crammed full of cars and, as you turn the corner to the station, you’re surprised with tens of ambulances lining the streets. Every morning at 6:40, when the shifts begin, without fail the ambulance drivers’ crowd around the entrance to share stories of the previous day’s calls, and receive their team for the shift.
What I enjoyed most was how unbelievably social the work was. Everyday you can be assigned a new team with a new driver in a different ambulance, which meant I got to meet a lot of great people. The youth were doing their national service worked alongside us and were incredibly helpful. They taught us Hebrew, how to fill out the forms and always wanted to practise their English.
On an average day, I would work the 7:00am-3:00pm shift, but got there extra early to ensure I got a good driver and a good team. If I was lucky, I would get to work on the mobile intensive care ambulance with my favourite driver of all. Most days included a number of calls to peoples’ homes; usually for shortness of breath or weakness in patients with chronic illnesses, often in older patients. However, we frequently had calls to homeless patients on the street, road accidents, people who had health issues in public places including seizures, falls and similar issues. I was able to be involved in a CPR situation in which we regained a pulse and kept it stable, so it was ultimately successful. Few volunteers are actually involved in situations like this one, so I felt privileged to be given the opportunity.
Five weeks of work with Magen David Adom provided me with great bonds, new friendships, a multiplicity of new experiences and a lot of confidence in myself. It was an unbelievable program that I would recommend to everyone. If you are dedicated to your work, it is remarkably rewarding. I would repeat it in a heartbeat.
I am so grateful to MDA in Australia, and in Israel, for the support I was given before during and after my volunteering. This was an experience that not only helped my professional development, but my personal development as well. I can’t imagine a better way to give back to our Jewish home.