Religious Zionists, ultra-Orthodox men free to pursue nursing degree

As many men in the haredi sector do not want to be treated by women, it will make them less hesitant to seek nursing care.

Ultra-Orthodox man take part in a rally in Bnei Brak. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ultra-Orthodox man take part in a rally in Bnei Brak.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For the first time, national religious and ultra-Orthodox haredi men who have passed psychometric exams will study for a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The program, which will begin in October at the Jerusalem College of Technology– Lev Academic Center, will help ease the shortage of nurses and provide observant men with a developing profession that is becoming more technological. In addition, as many men in the haredi sector do not want to be treated by women, it will make them less hesitant to seek nursing care.
“This program sends a message to the religious community that nursing is no longer a female profession, no longer involves emptying bedpans, and is growing and advancing.
Men, who can also work at irregular hours because their wives are taking care of the children then, can make a lot of money; they can also go into male-oriented specialties such as intensive care and take part in medics courses,” said Prof. Chaya Greenberger, the dean of JCT’s faculty of health and life sciences. Greenberger founded more than six years ago the nursing program at JCT’s separate women’s campus, Machon Tal, whose graduates have the highest nursing licensing grade in the country.
Registration for men has just begun, and there has been much interest from the religious Zionist and haredi sector, said Greenberger. Most haredim will need a year of preparation, as they studied in yeshivot and were not prepared for matriculation and academic studies; most of the national religious come with matriculation, and some have passed psychometric exams.
Those students who have completed military service or done national service will get free tuition during the first year.
In addition, the male students will enjoy a 50-percent Health Ministry discount on tuition for all four years (if they commit themselves to working in the profession).
The men will study in the afternoons in a new building on the JCT campus in the capital’s Givat Mordechai campus, which is several kilometers from the rented Machon Tal campus for women in Givat Shaul. Eventually, Machon Tal – where like the men most students study engineering and other technological subjects – will be housed completely separately from the men’s campus in Givat Mordechai. The Machon Tal nursing school graduates between 65 and 70 a year, in addition to 45 in the Bnei Brak program for haredi women; the Bnei Brak program for haredi men will graduate some 35 men a year.
The new JCT program is not the only one that trains haredi men for nursing. Two years ago, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Academic College began to offer separate nursing studies for ultra-Orthodox males in Bnei Brak, but the 35 students a year received eased requirements including exemption from psychometric exams, Greenberger pointed out. JCT also runs in Bnei Brak a nursing studies program for haredi women, and while they too don’t have to pass such exams, they have more of a general education and “catch up quickly.” The Council for Higher Education, which is eager to integrate haredim into the economic mainstream, established reduced requirements for haredi men at the Bnei Brak college, she noted.
The new JCT program for men will be closely supervised by the Schlesinger Institute for Medical-Halachic Research at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, with rabbis (led by physician/ rabbi Mordechai Halperin) supervising and advising on Jewish law issues. Male students, said Greenberger, will study women’s health in lectures, but some subjects such as gynecology will use computer simulation rather than touching women patients, although when they graduate, the hospitals and clinics where they will work will probably require them to treat women as well.
Nursing students listen to frontal lectures for the first 18 months, followed by clinical work in hospitals and community clinics three times a week, but students remain occupied on campus with research seminars and lectures during the remaining two and a half years of their studies.
At JCT’s male campus, women may not teach male students, but they are involved in administration. “We have hired male doctors and male nurses for the faculty, but supervision of the program will be done by women, Greenberger said.
She praised Dr. Shosh Riba, the Health Ministry’s chief of nursing, for her “great support” for the activities of Machon Tal and now for JCT’s male nursing program. “She understands the contribution to Israeli society this will bring.”
Israel’s number of nurses per capita is the lowest in the OECD countries, said Greenberger.
“While the nursing shortage is not as critical now as it was five years ago, there are still too few. Everybody who begins to study now will surely find jobs. There are shortages of nurses everywhere except in the North, where there are numerous Arabs who work in the field. Jerusalem hospitals, for example, are crying for more nurses.”
But Riba said that while she believes those entering nursing school now will find jobs, the actual need for nurses in Israel is not known. While many women nurses from the former Soviet Union who moved here in the 1990s are beginning to retire, “there aren’t enough job slots approved by the Treasury or clinical beds where they can do their clinical studies. We are fighting all the time for more job slots and beds.”
Riba said that geriatric and chronically ill institutions are short of nurses, both men and women. There are 60,000 nurses in the country, 47,000 of them younger than 65, and 85% of them are working in the profession. Between 16% and 20% of nurses are men, many of them Arabs who are attracted to the profession.
“We are suffering from a lack of public health nurses in the community, in health fund clinics, the School Health Service, tipat halav [well baby] clinics and others. The basic pay for community nurses is considerably lower and the extra benefits less, and they have longer basic work hours than hospital nurses, and they can earn more working weekends and at night,” said Riba.
She maintained that the Israel Nurses Association has long insisted on this differential.