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Urgent Care as Compassionate Care

February 2018


It’s no fun to be a patient in an emergency room: you’re in alarming pain, you’re fearful about your chances for recovery, and you’re giving up a lot of control. Now imagine how much more disorienting and anxiety-provoking it is for someone with intellectual disability. Nothing is familiar, you sense a hurried pace and high tension, and people you don’t know are asking you rapid fire questions. An ER can be a scary and unwelcoming place for a patient with intellectual disability.

In an ongoing effort to create more compassionate and effective care for people with intellectual disability, Israel Elwyn (IE) partnered with Hadassah School of Nursing (Hebrew University) and Hadassah Medical Center Ein Kerem earlier this month to present a conference entitled “Making the ER Accessible” and which took place at Hadassah in Jerusalem. Built on a longstanding collaboration between the three organizations, the conference addressed the many ways that service in Hadassah’s Emergency Room can advance to better serve the unique needs of patients with intellectual disability. 


Conference organizers and main speakers, from Israel Elwyn; Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services; Hadassah School of Nursing; and Hadassah Medical Center Ein Kerem



By its very nature, an emergency room can be noisy and hectic.  Hadassah Ein Kerem’s ER treats 90,000 patients annually, with anywhere from 20 to 30 patients arriving in just one hour. Both individually and in teams, the multidisciplinary staff treats a variety of patients, dealing with life and death situations and providing professional care. Efficient communication with patients and those accompanying them to the ER is essential.

Over the course of the past year, 180 residents with intellectual disability from Israel Elwyn’s Supported Living Services in Jerusalem had occasion to use Hadassah’s ER. These and other individuals with a range of disabilities have unique needs due to their age, behavioral characteristics, interpersonal communication abilities, levels of cognitive understanding and abilities challenged by pressure or extreme situations.  For them, the reality of the ER is a lack of accessibility.

The seeds of this symposium were sown in 2013 when IE, Hadassah School of Nursing and Hadassah Medical Center Ein Kerem collaborated for a conference addressing medical service accessibility in broad terms. Over the course of that engagement, the partners identified a critical need to delve more deeply into the ER experience in particular.


The “Making the ER Accessible” Conference was attended by 120 professionals from the medical and social services fields as well as numerous Israel Elwyn service recipients and their families. Presentations included:

  •  A review of the services provided to people with intellectual disability in Israel;

  • The characteristics of intellectual disability;

  • Filmed interviews with IE residents and their families on their experiences in the ER;

  • Making information cognitively accessible for people with intellectual disability;

  • The challenges faced by ER staff;

  • Communication methods; and

  • Accessible health studies.

A panel discussion led by individuals with intellectual disability, their family members, IE staff and health professionals tied the numerous topics together and gave the conference the real-life context that enriched the experience for all.


The conference was a rare but rewarding opportunity for caregivers, patients, and patient families to exchange ideas, experiences and perspectives. This engagement produced many thoughtful and innovative approaches to ER accessibility. For example, a proposal was put forward to develop an “identification form” that would lay out the individualized needs and capabilities of that particular patient with intellectual disability. The thought is that if a patient with intellectual disability brought this emergency ID to the ER, the urgent care team could quickly adjust their encounters to put the patient at ease and speed the treatment process.

We are confident that this conference is just the first step and will evolve and expand to reach additional medical teams within Hadassah and other hospitals.  

Lets Connect

We'd love to hear from you! Also, please let us know in advance of your next trip to Israel and we will give you a tour of the Israel Elwyn programs.

You can also contact one of our North American offices: United States: (267) 225-5132 or Canada: (416) 649-1655.

If you would like to make a contribution either online or by check, please see the details below.

David B. Marcu, Chief Executive Officer

IE's mission is to develop and provide a wide array of supports and tools for people with disabilities, while constantly striving for excellence of service and the creation of a just society. Together with people with disabilities and society at large, we shall continue working as an innovative and cutting-edge organization.

Please support the work of Israel Elwyn to provide state-of-the-art services in the areas of childhood early intervention, rehabilitation, assisted living, vocational training and employment services for persons with disabilities by making a gift:

At PayPal:
American Friends of Israel Elwyn
Canadian Friends of Israel Elwyn

By check payable to:
American Friends of Israel Elwyn, PO Box 828284, Philadelphia, PA 19182-8284
Canadian Friends of Israel Elwyn, 74 Tycos Drive, Toronto, Ontario M6B 1V9

To donate in Israel:
Please click this link:
Mail checks: payable to "Israel Elwyn", at 20 Henrietta Szold St., Jerusalem 9650200

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