Toronto-born student seeks to revamp geriatric care delivery
The global pandemic has underscored the essential front line work of nurses and the vulnerability of senior citizens. Canadian-Israeli Shoshana Ratz is making her mark in both of these domains as the youngest soon-to-be graduate of the first Master’s degree program offered in Israel for geriatric nurse practitioners.
Now a wife and mother of two, she made Aliyah from Toronto in 2011 and met her husband during her third year of the Jerusalem College of Technology program. More than 1,000 students annually are entered in the Bachelor of Science program and it has been ranked first among 24 nursing departments nationwide by the Israeli Ministry of Health.
Having earned her BSC, she returned to JCT to pursue a Master’s Degree at its new Nurse Practitioner’s Program. (Interestingly, JCT has another unique connection to Toronto; in partnership with the U of T, JCT offers a unique program in health informatics, a relatively new field that bridges clinical, information, and communication technology expertise.)
Ratz spoke with TheJ.ca about her college experience, culture shock, and career ambitions.
What made you choose JCT’s nursing program?
The program chose me. I was completing my pre-med studies in Canada [and] my mother told me about the JCT nursing program, which she had seen in an ad. During a summer in Israel, I met with Professor Chaya Greenberger, former dean of JCT’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences… [she] invited me into her program, and I started in August 2010.”
What were your initial impressions?
The program was difficult, particularly because classes were taught entirely in Hebrew, but the professors were incredibly [supportive]. Many are English-speakers themselves, and they helped me to acclimate to this new style of learning. While I was very overwhelmed at first, I knew the program was right for me when I noticed the care and camaraderie of students and staff [who helped] me to adjust to new materials… [and] learn in a new language. If I lagged behind, [I knew] my classmates would ensure we collectively finished the work and would receive good grades together.”
Did you personally experience the program’s growth?
My first year was JCT’s fourth year of the program, so there was no real indicator of fellow alums’ success. When I began, I felt the school was actively trying to prove itself; it was a fledgling program without much of a track record. At times, [people from] other programs would say, ‘JCT’s not even a university,’ but we had the last laugh in the end. Every student from that first year passed the Government Licensing Exam with the highest average of any Israeli university. Suddenly we were on the map.
How did JCT prepare you for life in Israel, if at all?
Going to an Israeli college “straight off the plane” prepared me for the culture shock and language barrier all new immigrants are destined to face. If I chose to attend a non-Israeli college, it would have been harder to acclimate to Israeli society and to my current job. If somebody wants to make Aliyah, I recommend they go to an Israeli college. I believe JCT is the best place to go because they have a kind, English-speaking staff, they respect your background, and encourage you to learn in Hebrew while utilizing your English skills as an advantage. I could never have imagined my journey would lead me here. But now I would not want it any other way.
What are your career aspirations?
I’ve decided to go into geriatrics as there is a dire need for geriatric nurses. I completed a specialty in a joint geriatric ICU program and the new Master of Science/Nurse Practitioner Program in Geriatrics. My goal is to change the way we treat our elderly within the health system. As a nurse practitioner, I feel qualified to make the greatest impact since I understand both aspects of the patient — the care and the value of relationships with patients, in addition to the importance of medicine and research.