Bucking multiple stereotypes, Jerusalem college trains haredi men as nurses

Click photo to download. Caption: The Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), whose program for female nurses is pictured here, has opened enrollment for a new nursing program geared specifically for haredi men. Credit: JCT.

By Ayala Young/JNS.org

A new educational program in Israel is bucking multiple stereotypes, seeking to balance the country’s female-dominated nursing industry and to put haredi men to work. 

The Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) has developed a nursing program specifically geared towards educating haredi men. The first-of-its-kind, four-year bachelor’s degree program has opened enrollment for its fall semester to haredi 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,” says 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 haredi population.”

Israel has a significant shortage of nurses per capita, 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 percent 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,” Greenberger says. “Physicians, RNs, and other healthcare professionals are able to function to the full extent of their educational and experiential preparation within their practice.”

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 haredi patients refuse treatment from female nurses and physicians. In many cases, haredi patients evade medical care altogether and suffer through illnesses in order to avoid uncomfortable situations.  JCT hopes that its programming will lead to an influx of observant male nurses who can both ease the overall nursing shortage and make the haredi population less hesitant to seek medical care.

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

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

Initiating social and financial changes in Israel is nothing new to JCT. For years, the college has made significant strides in advancing and integrating Israel’s Ethiopian and haredi communities and empowering women by training them for professions in high-tech and business.

In response to the new nursing program for haredi men, Israeli citizens from all sectors are expressing a desire to open additional professions to the haredi community by way of similarly structured programming, according to JCT.

“We are excited about the potential of this program,” Greenberger says. “A bright new day is dawning for the haredi community and all Israeli society. With any luck, this is only the beginning.”

Posted on October 1, 2014 .