Annual OJNA Conference Recap
By Rochelle Rothman, Published in FJJ (Nov 2021)
I was invited to attend the annual conference for the OJNA (Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association) on November 11, 2021 in New York City. For me personally, it was a really eye-opening experience to see the one hundred plus nurses in attendance, all, so involved in this experience of perfecting their craft to better serve their patients. There were mostly women there, although there were also a few male nurses in attendance, too. There were also more than forty nurses who could not attend in person, watching it all on Zoom.
It started at 8AM, serving a nice breakfast display of healthy food. Of course, there were a few short breaks and also a luncheon Smorgasbord for anyone who wanted a hot or cold lunch. These breaks allowed everyone to mix, socialize and for me to interview several nurses for this
column. I spoke with Shevi Rosner MSN RN-C, a neonatal ICU nurse at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Shevi is president of this great organization. Rivka Pomerantz established the OJNA, and in Spring 2017 incorporated it into an NCO as a non-profit. Membership was instituted in 2018. OJNA founding members in (Spring 2017) include Goldie Burstein, Rivka Pomerantz, Linda Segel and L’via Weisinger. There are 440 paid members all over the USA, Canada, Israel, and the U.K. too and over 2,550 on their Facebook group. This was the first time they had zoom for an in-person conference. There was no conference last year due to Covid.
Nurses work in all kinds of specialties, therefore their topics are varied, to apply to as many people as possible. Nurses are always taking classes, attending conferences each year, as they continue their education to get their Renewal Certificates and licenses. This is mandatory for nurses. They can also do it online through different subjects they are interested in.
The focus of the OJNA organization is support of Jewish nurses. Shevi said, “We publish a professional nursing journal twice a year. Other perks of membership include a new graduate mentorship, where a new graduate nurse is paired up with an experienced nurse, for the first six months of their job, in order to help them in their profession. Mentorship is very important. It helps ease the new nurse into her career with confidence!” They also have committees of various types to assist their members in different aspects of their careers. There are webinars, resume reviews, and have experts critiques by committees such as the APRN committee (advanced practice registered nurse) and student committee. They have programming and events each year on various subjects as many nurses specialize in different medical divisions. “We have chapters around the country that organize events in their area. Speakers will present a shiur perhaps in Los Angeles, Florida, Chicago or Georgia.” added, Shevi. They offer advice on resumes and writing samples, and they help with many other things.”
In the Spring there was a nine- week Halacha series that was online. It covered many topics such as issues of shabbos, mikvah, and end of life care. Once a month they have Tuesday’s Tidbits, where one member presents a topic. Afterwards, there is an open forum for discussion. Of course, it is all nursing related. Members can present from all around the country, and they do! Recently, one member, the founder of OJNA, spoke about her experience of founding the organization and her journey of making aliyah. This month, another member will be speaking about her experience of freezing her eggs.
At this conference I witnessed several subjects being discussed that really enlightened me personally! The first session I did not see as I arrived afterwards. I do know that the subject was relevant especially in today’s environment. It was listed as “An Approach to Antisemitism in the Workplace, given by Ziporah Reich JD and Robert Davis MBA, MSN, RN-BC, NE-BC. I spoke to several nurses, who told me they felt it was important for them to hear. One subject was all about the HPV vaccine as it relates to the Frum community. Yardena Mandel DNP RN was the speaker. She was excellent, even I understood all her points as a non-medical lay person. It was listed as: HPV Vaccine: Hesitancy and Knowledge Gap in the Orthodox Jewish Population. It is the only vaccine that prevents different types of cancer in both males and females. It can be given starting at nine years old until 46 yrs. old! She also had a detailed slideshow with information explaining the different ways to be infected. This is definitely a subject to talk with your Pediatrician about on your next visit. Some statistics include: About 14 million people in the U.S. become infected each year. Annually, HPV causes 33,700 cancers. Infected persons may have no signs/symptoms. Nearly 80 million Americans are currently infected. Her aim as expressed in her talk is to address multiple barriers among Orthodox Jews to increase HPV vaccination update.
Rabbi Aaron Glatt MD shared his thoughts next, on “What You Want to Know: Covid-19 update with medical and Halachic Q & A.” After listening to his opinions on giving the vaccine to younger children from 5 to 11 years old, one might decide to follow it. I personally feel we should be guided by our own doctors on this important subject. He answered written questions from the members in attendance.
The next topic was “ Breathtaking: The Basics of Mechanical Ventilation”, given by Chaya Friedman RRT. She was quite thorough in her talk. During lunch I spoke with nurse, Aliza Lew, who has been in nursing for 13 years. She said she chose this occupation, since she liked the sciences, and it is combined with helping people. There was a wide assortment of younger nurses with experienced ones. They all were very tuned in and energized by being together, especially since Covid prevented them from having one last year!
I also spoke with Goldie Burstein, a nurse for over 20 years. She had wanted to become a nurse since she was a little girl. Her parents discouraged her from doing it at the time. It was something she always wanted. She eventually got her dream after having her 5 th child. Her husband said to her “You could have, you should have. You would have. If you want it, do it! I will help you!” He became her biggest supporter. She loves it. She worked at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Women’s Health for many years and now works as a care manager.
I spoke with Dawn Rivlin who is working in Coney Island Hospital. She’s been a nurse for 16 years and enjoys working with the large Russian population that encompasses that area. After lunch, we had a really fun experience with something called “Drum Therapy for our Patients”. Brendan Finnegan had everyone play with a drum that we each got to use during an exercise he conducted. (We also got to take it home!) It’s hard to explain, you just had to be there! I understand Brendan does also does this for private groups, such as home parties. He is known to go to Rehab’s nursing homes etc. to help reduce stress levels. It improves immune system function, facilitates healthy memory, and improves coordination. His literature explained “that recreational music making of group drumming is the practice of engaging in drumming or music in a group setting for recreation and fun without performance or education outcomes. You can check out more about it by going to http://yourworlddrumcircles.com/ or firstname.lastname@example.org. The next speaker was Goldie Burstein RN who spoke about Ulcerative Colitis, with a personal perspective from her son who has been afflicted with this disease. She read a letter from her son detailing his life living with the disease. Afterwards she spoke from the heart about it. It was very moving.
Dr. David Hudesman continued that conversation including treatment for Ulcerative Colitis as well as Crohn’s disease. The last session was entitled New on the Scene: Medical Marijuana by Binyamin Tepfer, PhD. I left before that discussion, but I can tell you it was also detailed, from my discussion with Linda Segel, BSN RN. There were no samples given out!
Everyone in attendance was given a “goody bag” of sorts which included a notebook, a magnet with the emblem of OJNA, the schedule and the drum. If I were a nurse, I would have certainly left this conference feeling energized, inspired and surely uplifted by the camaraderie experienced that day!