By Ayala Young

With the New Year comes news of an innovative educational program that is making waves in Israel’s female-dominated nursing industry and the country’s chareidi (ultra-Orthodox) communities.

The Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), one of Israel’s most prestigious academic institutions of higher learning, has developed a nursing program specifically geared towards educating ultra-Orthodox men. The first of its kind, the four-year bachelor’s degree program has opened enrollment for its fall semester to ultra-Orthodox men who have passed their psychometric exams.

“Nursing is a desirable and honorable profession, and we are giving religious men the opportunity to train for a career they can be proud of, while sending the message that nursing is evolving well beyond the field’s antiquated stereotypes,” said Chaya Greenberger, JCT’s dean of health and life sciences. “Most importantly, this new initiative will strengthen Israel’s medical workforce while professionally advancing the country’s ultra-Orthodox population.”

Israel has a significant shortage of nurses, but is especially lacking religious male nurses who can treat patients according to their religious comfort level. Israel has less than 50 nurses for every 10,000 residents, and only 20% of them are men.

“Nurses make up the bulk of any hospital’s staff, and when they are trained and practice at a high level they do far more for patients, while improving the efficiency and profitability for the entire medical system. Physicians, RNs, and other healthcare professionals are able to function to the full extent of their educational and experiential preparation within their practice,” adds Greenberg.

Like JCT’s nursing program for women, the Schlesinger Institute for Medical-Halachic Research at Shaare Zedek Medical Center will oversee every element of the men’s program to ensure that it conforms to Jewish law and the highest standards of medical ethics.

Israeli hospitals have always struggled with the problems that arise when male Orthodox patients refuse treatment from female nurses and physicians. In many cases, chareidi patients evade medical care altogether and suffer through illnesses in order to avoid uncomfortable situations. JCT hopes that their programming will lead to an influx of observant male nurses who can both ease the overall nursing shortage and make the Orthodox population less hesitant to seek medical care.

By creating a program that is sensitive to the needs of this community, a new profession has opened up to a population that normally doesn’t enter the workforce.

“Programs like ours really make a difference for the Israeli medical system and the country as a whole. When more people enter the workforce and become fully contributing members of society, it alters family dynamics and builds Israel’s social and financial infrastructure.”

Initiating major social and financial changes in Israel is nothing new to JCT. For years, JCT has made significant strides in advancing and integrating the Ethiopian and chareidi communities in Israeli society and empowering women by training them towards professions in high-tech and business.

The buzz surrounding the launch of JCT’s nursing program has been very positive, with Israeli citizens from all sectors expressing a desire to open additional professions to the ultra-Orthodox community by way of similarly structured programming.


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