YDE Recognized by Torah Umesorah as SCHOOL OF THE YEAR

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By: Ellen Geller Kamaras

“When you’re a nurse you know that every day you will touch a life, or a life will touch yours.” –Author Unknown

Ruth Waide shared her gratitude, appreciation, and affection for Shmuela Bar-Chama Nemet, the much-loved nurse at the Yeshivah of Flatbush Elementary School.

I am honored to introduce Shmuela. As a school nurse, she has been devotedly taking care of our sons and daughters, our grandchildren, the Yeshivah staff, and even the parent body, for over 23 years.

To understand Shmuela’s essence, spark, and spirit, let’s start with her childhood and follow Shmuela on her journey to nursing, marriage, and family.

Growing Up

Shmuela grew up and still resides a stone’s throw away from the Yeshivah.  She proudly states that her children are “third generation” Yeshivah of Flatbush students.  Shmuela, her older brother, her younger sister, her younger brother, and her mother, Rhona Bar-Chama (my own wonderful high school English teacher) are all Flatbush graduates.

It’s no surprise that Shmuela has a deep love for Eretz Yisrael. She is an ardent Zionist and joined Bnei-Akiva as a young girl.  Bnei Akiva is the largest religious Zionist youth movement in the world, active in 42 countries.  Shmuela attended CampMoshava, a Bnei Akiva overnight camp, as a camper for six years, and years later served as the camp nurse, which she has done for the last 19 years.

Her father, Yeshayahu Branner, was born in Poland and made aliya in 1949. He grew up in Israel and changed his last name to the Hebrew Bar-Chama, meaning, the son of Chaim Moshe Aryeh. Shmuela’s mother, Rhona Richman, was born in America and met Shmuela’s father when they were both studying in Bar Ilan University.  Together, the Bar-Chamas raised their four children in the United States, and Mrs. Bar-Chama taught at Flatbush Yeshivah for 15 years.

Shmuela graduated the Yeshivah of Flatbush Elementary School in 1978.  She continued her education at Yeshiva University Central High School and spent her gap year in Israel at Hachshara (a year-long Bnei Akiva program), followed by Sherut Leumi (Israeli national service, an alternative for religious girls to army service) serving in the pediatric wing of Shaarei Tzedek Hospital in Yerushalayim.

Shmuela’s time in Israel inspired her to study nursing at Shaarei Tzedek.  In her last year of nursing school she met Shlomo, her bashert, who was born and raised in Eretz Yisrael.  Shlomo is an accountant and a business man. The couple married in Israel and moved a year later to NYC.  Shmuela and Shlomo have five sons, Sruli, Yedidya, Oriel, Netanel, and Rafael.  Their oldest, Sruli, is currently in Medical school in NYC and is married to Michal, a PhD student in School Psychology.  Together they are the proud parents of Eliana, who brings incredible joy and nachat to Shmuela and the entire family.  The next son, Yedidya, lives in Israel, did his army tour, works for El Al, and is pursuing an MBA. Oriel is a pre-med student. Netanel, is in Israel for his gap year, and Rafael is currently a student at the Yeshivah of Flatbush High School.  The career choices Sruli and Oriel made were influenced by the actions and choices Shmuela modeled.

After graduating nursing school, Shmuela worked in both Pediatrics and Geriatrics at ShaareiTzedek Hospital.  When she and Shlomo moved to NYC, Shmuela practiced geriatric nursing at both Cobble Hill and Haim Salomon nursing homes. Five years later she was offered the school nurse position by Mr. Bachman (Mrs. Waide’s predecessor) at the Yeshivah when the longtime nurse, Mrs. Gang, retired.  The rest is history!

Why Nursing?

Shmuela always loved helping people as far back as she can recall.  Her nurturing and healing instincts extended to everyone, from her grandparents, to her friends, and even to those she encountered on the street. Nursing isn’t just Shmuela’s day job.  After spending a few hours with Shmuela, I would say that nursing is her calling.  For Shmuela, being a nurse doesn’t end when she walks out of the school at the end of the day.  When she’s off the clock, she uses her nursing skills, her huge heart, and her compassion and kindness to aid sick women and men in various ways.  She helps elderly and/or ill people, relatives and friends of family cope with illness, and unfortunately, sometimes with passing on (preserving their dignity). This includes seeing people in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice care.

Shmuela is a very modest woman.  It was in Ms. Waide’s office that Shmuela and I spoke and connected, woman to woman, with Ms. Waide, her supervisor and close friend, highlighting Shmuela’s many acts of hesed and kindness.

On one occasion, several years ago, there was an elderly man whose wish was to return to Israel for his remaining years.  In spite of his doctor’s warnings, but with his doctor’s consent, Shmuela made it happen.  She accompanied him on the plane and got him safely to Israel.

On another occasion Shmuela received a call from a Hatzalah dispatcher in the middle of the night asking her to meet the emergency responders so that she could accompany them on a call. Why?  The patient’s family had once seen Shmuela taking care of someone and wanted the same level of excellent treatment.  She turned to her husband Shlomo and he said, “You have to go.”   He has said this phrase many times over the years.

Shmuela expressed her gratitude for her husband’s wonderful support and love.  “He is always there for me. . .taking care of the kids when he sends me off.” She credits her ability to sustain a healthy work-life balance to Shlomo.

Her courage, superior nursing skills, and commitment to saving lives have resulted in her willingness to get involved in potentially dangerous situations.  She once pulled someone out of a burning car outside of her home, and she also jumped in to help a man outside of the Yeshivah who had a seizure in his car.

Career and Work-Life Balance

The nurse’s office was quite busy when I arrived and left, with children of all ages lining up to see Shmuela. She is grateful for the staff that works with her in the office (Pam, Shelley, Meital, and Esther). I wondered how she does so much, and yet maintains her positive energy and equanimity.  Calmness and level headedness are most certainly traits that have enabled Shmuela to be a passionate, caring, effective, and valuable nurse.  When I asked her how she balances her career with her family and hesed work, she responded with two answers.  First, she loves what she does.  She is completely devoted and impassioned about helping others and making a difference in someone’s life.  This is her key to success, to love what you do and do what you love.  Secondly, as described above, her rock is her husband Shlomo, who empowers her to follow her heart.

Most Rewarding Aspects of Nursing

Shmuela thrives on assisting people to cope with pain, manage their struggles with illnesses, making them comfortable, and putting a smile on their faces.  She sees children who have cancer, diabetes, and other serious medical conditions.  She has an extremely discerning eye, keen insight, and expertise. Shmuela noticed that a student had bruises and called the mother. The mother took her child to a doctor, and the diagnosis was leukemia.  B”H, that student is cancer free today. Shmuela feels fulfilled when she receives positive feedback from her students’ doctors about her follow up and care.

Ms. Wade calls Shmuela “the first line of defense.” As the school nurse, she often is the first to know that there may be an issue with a child.  There are students who visit the school nurse often with a physical or somatic complaint.  Shmuela does the triage.  Is it a medical issue or is it academic, social, or emotional?

Students come to the nurse’s office for diverse reasons.  The child may truly feel sick, or there may be another root cause. Shmuela determines whether the student is challenged academically, is bored, is concerned about an ill parent, or is affected by other problems at home.

Shmuela also steps in and supports staff with health concerns, as well as parents of students who are grappling with their own or their child’s medical issues.  She has become a “go-to person” for recommendations for doctors, hospitals, and other facilities.

Shmuela’s Advice to Aspiring Nurses

Follow your dream.  Don’t let your fears about working with the sick stop you from becoming a nurse.  The benefits will outweigh your concerns.  Nursing is a versatile and flexible profession, especially for working mothers.

It’s no coincidence that Shmuela’s role models are Shifra and Puah, the midwives who risked their lives to save the Hebrew male babies from death in Pharaoh’s time.

You can reach Shmuela at snemet@flatbush.org.

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach.  Her coaching specialties include life, career, and dating coaching.  Ellen helps people find their passion, purpose, and positivity in life and relationships. Ellen can be contacted at ellen@lifecoachellen.com(www.lifecoachellen.com).