CareOne At Teaneck Sponsors Conference For Orthodox Jewish Nurses
Jewish Link Of New Jersey
THURSDAY, 26 MAY 2016 05:49 BY ANDREA NISSEL
The Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association held their first annual conference at the Teaneck Jewish Center on Thursday, May 19. The conference drew nurses primarily from the metropolitan area but others also joined from Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Florida and Indiana. Over a hundred people gathered in anticipation of what was expected to be an impressive lineup of speakers addressing various issues of shared interest.
Rivka Pomerantz, RN, founder and president of OJNA, started the association with a Facebook page so that Orthodox Jewish nurses like her could find support and answers to problematic issues. After a few years, along with her colleagues Goldie Burstein, RN, Linda Segel, RN, and L’via Weisinger, RN, they officially incorporated the organization a few months ago. While there have been conferences in the past geared toward Orthodox nurses, this was the first under the banner of OJNA.
Weisinger, a registered nurse for over 20 years and vice president of OJNA, explained some unique issues Orthodox nurses are confronted with and why this conference is helpful in supporting many of those conflicts. Many facilities are not accommodating to nurses who elect to wear head coverings and skirts in lieu of hospital scrubs. However, perhaps the largest obstacle Orthodox nurses encounter is the inability to work on Saturday (Shabbat), a requirement for almost every hospital-based nursing position. Certain units will refrain from hiring more than a few Orthodox nurses because they will not be available for work on Saturdays. Often, this forces Orthodox nurses to pursue job opportunities in other types of facilities such as schools, camps and clinics. Weisinger herself is a school nurse at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls and Heichal HaTorah, as well as a lactation consultant and postpartum nurse at Holy Name Medical Center. However, she is affectionately known in Teaneck as “The Lice Lady,” thanks to her unparalleled skills in removing those unwanted critters from children’s scalps.
The mission of OJNA is to support Orthodox nurses and educate them on how to most effectively navigate the industry and deal with the discrimination and negativity sometimes asserted toward them. Additionally, because Orthodox nurses have a certain responsibility to the community, OJNA provides invaluable resources and information on situations they encounter in regard to Jewish law. “As an Orthodox nurse, it is important to successfully navigate professional requirements and halachic allowances,” Weisinger told The Jewish Link. “The Jewish population has unique needs and we want our nurses capable and competent to handle them on a day-to-day basis.”
A unifying factor of this group of nurses is the commonality of issues faced due to their identity and outward religious practices. They confront similar challenges because of time constraints, family factors and lifestyle choices. It is because of this familiar ground that they seek to offer speakers who can address specifically the issues that are relevant to their nursing careers. “While most of the participants are Orthodox, the conference is certainly open to anyone who wants to attend. But again, the reason for the weekday scheduling is because these nurses are unable to attend the other conferences typically held on Saturday, and most of them are at work on Sunday,” explained Weisinger.
Samara Gold, along with her mother and sister, traveled quite a distance from South Bend, Indiana, to participate in the conference. “I was excited to attend the OJNA conference with my mother (Julie Blatt) and sister (Chana Blatt), who are both nurses as well. I felt it was worth the travel to meet and spend time with other nurses who share our unique challenges and values. Living in a smaller Jewish community, Orthodox nurses and patients are a very small minority. I especially appreciated learning about community resources that haven’t yet made their way to my area, but could benefit so many people here.”
Holy Name Medical Center, CareOne at Teaneck and NechamaComfort sponsored this year’s conference. Representatives from each of the sponsors were on hand to speak with participants and field inquiries. Jessica Hoffman, assistant administrator of CareOne at Teaneck, said, “CareOne of Teaneck is a local nursing facility committed to serving Teaneck residents. We are so happy to support a homegrown initiation on a sponsorship level. We are always seeking qualified nurses and this conference is a wonderful opportunity to foster a connection between these professionals and our facility.”
Holy Name Medical Center’s Chief Nursing Officer, Sheryl Slonim, said the hospital agreed to sponsor the conference in keeping with its mission “to ensure that all patients coming through our door feel safe, welcome and confident that we will treat them within the context of their personal, cultural and religious needs.” Holy Name partners with many local Jewish organizations in support of Teaneck’s community.
Subjects discussed at the conferences included breast and ovarian cancer, care of the special needs population, teens at risk and caring for aging Holocaust survivors. Reva Judas, founder and director of NechamaComfort, also spoke about perinatal loss and bereavement. Her organization was founded in 2008 and is hosted by the Jewish Family Service of Bergen and North Hudson. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping all family members who have experienced infant or pregnancy loss at any time in their lives. All services are free to anyone in need. Judas had the following advice for nurses: “Be informed and know what resources are available to you,” she emphasized. “The nurse’s position is twofold—dealing with a patient as a nurse and as part of the Jewish community.”
Toby Weiss, Director of Cultural Sensitivity and Jewish Programming at MJHS (Metropolitan Jewish Health System), discussed end-of-life care of the Shoah (Holocaust) survivor. Caring for elderly people in general must always be done with care and compassion. When providing services to Holocaust survivors, it is important to be mindful of words and actions. “We have to approach Holocaust survivors in a way that is sensitive and respectful. The impact of trauma in survivors manifests in distrust of strangers and acting out. Caretakers must build trust through listening and caring,” Weiss explained.
Teaneck Councilman Alan Sohn shared a few brief thoughts with the audience. He recounted a situation when he was admitted to Holy Name Medical Center and realized that nurses are underappreciated. “I have an immense appreciation for nurses. I received amazing care and I thank them for what they do,” said Sohn.
While nurses must handle all patients in an exemplary manner, within the observant community the Orthodox nurses can be especially advantageous to many patients and families. In many cases, the Orthodox nurses are knowledgeable in halachic matters that patients encounter while in a hospital or clinic. Additionally, being part of the greater community, these nurses are often privy to organizations and services outside of the hospital that can be very helpful in certain circumstances.
What makes OJNA such an outstanding organization is the camaraderie it fosters. The comfort in knowing that there are other nurses who have experienced a similar situation and could possibly provide support is very reassuring. A nurse’s job is to extend the best care possible to each patient. These nurses strive to make that a reality despite the hurdles that sometimes exist.