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In Israel, on a Mission

Sarah Serman today, visiting the hospital where she once worked.

Sherman as a nursing student in Tel Aviv in the 1960s wearing her long white cap.

In late December, Sarah Sherman, a clinical program manager in the Wellness Center at Howard County General Hospital, traveled to Israel as a volunteer for the American Heart Association and representative of the AHA Training Center at HCGH. Her mission: to make sure that emergency cardiac care programs conformed to AHA guidelines.

Sherman grew up near Tel Aviv and was among the first and youngest in her country to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She was just 19 when she enrolled at the University of Tel Aviv in 1968. This past winter, she returned to the university and to the hospitals where she once worked. “It was more than going and doing,” she says. “It was really coming home.”

Hospitals in Israel today

Walking through Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center is a little like walking through The Johns Hopkins Hospital. It’s unbelievable. State-of-the-art emergency and monitoring equipment ... five ICUs for anything from cardiac to surgical intensive care. The atmosphere, though, is very informal. The doctors go by their first names. One physician wore sandals, even though it was winter.

Recalling medical care of the 1960s

I remember one night we had a man with a heart attack. Emergency care was limited. We didn’t have monitors, defibrillators, anything. The guy was young, from South Africa. The physician and I were standing there at the bedside—maybe we were starting an infusion, probably adrenalin, I don’t remember—but there was nothing else we could do before he died.

A nursing education, then and now

In nursing school, we lived in a dorm; we were not allowed to be married. We wore these long, white caps that came down to the shoulder. We looked like nuns. Nuns in Israel, imagine! The texts we used in the University’s BSN program were all in English, but back then, we really spoke only Hebrew. There were 21 of us. We would take turns translating chapters into Hebrew. On my trip, I attended a university reunion and found that my classmates became directors of nursing in hospitals throughout Israel. Now, everyone speaks English. The students in the programs I observed seem more relaxed, though in some ways more intense. That may be because of the scenarios in Israel today.

For children, different types of injuries

At Schneider Children’s Medical Center, just outside Tel Aviv in Petach Tikva, one of the instructors of pediatric advanced life support wanted to teach the [AHA] section on trauma according to Israeli scenarios. In the United States, he pointed out, kids may be in shock because of dehydration. Here, they’re in shock because they’ve been blown up. Wolfson Medical Center, in Houlon south of Tel Aviv, is headquarters for Save a Child’s Heart, an Israeli organization that treats children from all over the world. In the surgical cardiac intensive care unit, I saw many Palestinian kids. The doctors spoke fluent Arabic. Patients were receiving the best possible care regardless of their backgrounds.

Out on the town

My colleagues took me to a restaurant. My husband [who remained in America] did not want me to go. When you look at a place from far away, you lose perspective. But when you’re there, and you see people out on the streets, going about their ways, shopping and dining, you understand how Israel is dealing with it. They’re still going on.

-Anne Bennett Swingle



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