By Cindy Mindell ~
Since 1994, May 6-12 has been celebrated as National Nurses Week. Beginning with National Nurses Day on May 6 and through May 12 – the birthday of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale — the week is an opportunity to recognize nurses for their contributions to improving health, as both clinicians in a wide range of care settings and leaders who have a significant impact on the quality of care and effectiveness of the health care system.
Today, nursing is the nation’s largest and fastest growing health care profession. Nurses with advanced degrees, such as nurse practitioners, are being increasingly called upon to provide primary care and manage chronic illnesses. More than 600 million patient visits are made to nurse practitioners each year.
Included among the nation’s three million nurses are many Jewish women and, in recent years, men, many of whom have played and continue to play leadership roles in their field. In Connecticut, many Jewish nurses belong to a group that helps them stay abreast of the latest developments in their field, so that they may serve their patients better.
The Association of Jewish Registered Nurses (AJRN), was conceived by three Jewish registered nurses in November 1949 in Hartford. Their mission: “to further our interest in nursing and familiarize ourselves with the latest trends in medicine and newest techniques in nursing procedures.”
At the time, says longtime member Ruth Rabinowitz of Farmington, most members were stay-at-home moms who wanted to keep up with the profession until they could go back to work. “All the doctors we approached loved to talk to our group,” Rabinowitz says. “They would even come to our installation dinners.”
In addition to monthly educational events with speakers covering a wide range of healthcare topics, the group would hold social events like fashion shows and dinner-dances. In the ‘60s, AJRN created a scholarship program, at first designed to send one female Jewish high-school graduate to nursing school. Later, the group awarded two scholarships annually, for both undergraduate and graduate study. The scholarships are no longer offered.
The group was an integral part of the Greater Hartford Jewish community, says Rabinowitz, who joined in 1957. But since its fiftieth anniversary celebration in 1999, AJRN has gradually become less active, having outgrown its original purpose. Nurses returned to work and became too busy to attend meetings. Now-retired members still get together on occasion to socialize and to discuss healthcare issues.
While the Association of Jewish Registered Nurses has changed with the times, its legacy may extend beyond Greater Hartford: To this day, Rabinowitz still receives calls and emails from people around the country who want to start similar groups.