From civilian service to military service: What led policy-makers to remove nursing care from field units of the Israeli defense force (IDF) and return it later?

Ronen Segev*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: From the very onset, Israeli military nurses served in supporting positions on the front lines, shoulder to shoulder with men. When the IDF was established in 1948, nurses were sent to serve near areas of conflict and were not included in compulsory military service in field units. Once the military hospitals were closed in 1949, nursing in the Medical Corps lost a clear military purpose, and its main contribution was in the civilian arena. From 1949 until 2000, most recruited military nurses operated their mandatory service mainly in a civilian framework according to the integration agreement between the ministry of defense to the ministry of health. Between 2000 to 2018, military nurses served at home front military clinics and in headquarters jobs at the Medicine Corps. In2018, the Medical Corps decided to integrate military nurses into the Israeli military service in order to cope with the shortage of military physicians, among other things, and ensure appropriate availability of medical and health services for military units. This study examines, for the first time, the considerations that led to the closure of military hospitals and the transfer of the military service of nurses in the IDF to the Ministry of Health in 1949 and the decision in 2018 to return the military nurses to the field's military battalions. Methods: The study was based on an analysis of documents from the IDF archives, the Israeli parliament archive, the David Ben-Gurion archive, articles from periodical newspapers, and interviews with nurses and partners in the Israeli Medical Corps. Results: During almost 70 years, Israeli military nursing's main contribution was to the civilian hospitals. The return of nursing care to the IDF field units in recent years intended to supplement the medicine corps demands in field units by placing qualified academic nurses. Conclusions: The removal of nursing care from the IDF field units was provided as a response to the needs of the health demands of the emerging state. Until 2018 there was no significant need for military nurses except in emergency time. This is in contrast to other military nursing units.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1
JournalIsrael Journal of Health Policy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 31 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Civilian and military nursing
  • Israel defense forces
  • Military hospitals
  • Military nursing


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