Ellen Geller Kamaras
“Why am I an effective nurse? I treat everyone with dignity and respect. That’s what my parents modeled for us. There is no secret to success. I have Hashem on my side. Do the best you can, help whoever you can and be a good person.” ~~ Shany ~~
I am always elated to interview a woman from our community, to hear her life story and the passion in her voice when she describes her life purpose.
Please meet Shany Shaharabany, a family nurse practitioner and professor at the NYU Nursing School, who is on fire about helping people and saving lives. Let’s follow Shany on her journey from childhood to adulthood. In sharing her trajectory, I hope to convey her essence and her infectious energy and commitment to pikuach nefesh, preserving life.
Shany Shaharabany, née Dagmy, was born in Flatbush to Stella and Shaul Dagmy, both Lebanese immigrants.
Shany is immensely proud of her parents and siblings. She is one of five children with three older brothers and a younger sister. “I was the first girl, the fourth child, the serious one. I wanted to be perfect for my mom and dad. I was on honor roll and won lots of awards. My parents worked hard to establish themselves in the States.”
The Dagmys were supportive of Shany’s goals and passions and they trusted her judgment. Her mother communicated that it was essential that Shany do something for herself and that being a woman and mother would not stand in her way. Shany attended Shulamith School for Girls from grade school through high school. She talked about her accomplished classmates who pursued professions and advanced degrees in diverse fields.
Shany was ten years old when she realized that the medical field was where her passion lay. Shany had a number of uncles and cousins who were doctors. Her mother’s cousin steered her towards nursing, saying that as an observant Jewish woman, she could grow and do so much as a nurse. As a teenager, Shany volunteered on Shabbat at Beth Israel Hospital visiting patients and she worked as a medical assistant in a doctor’s office.
The Dagmys taught their children to respect everyone regardless of their religion or their station in life. “They showed us that everyone has a soul and a heart. My parents kept in touch with our non-Jewish nanny and others. I am a good nurse because of their middot.”
Marriage, Family, and Career
Shany met her naseeb, Yosef Shaharabany, when she was eighteen. She met him through a shidduch arranged by mutual family friends. “Joseph is a gem. He is the best person on this planet. I only knew three people from Mill Basin and Joseph grew up there. We met in May, got engaged in June, and married in September. He is three years older and of Iraqi descent. He was super supportive about my education and raising a family. He stuck by me through all my schooling and nursing jobs, including the pandemic.”
While Shany filled me in about her life, I was in awe of her boundless strength, determination, and focus. Her family life, schooling, and career are deeply intertwined.
During the past 12 years, Shany got married, took her nursing pre-requisites, enrolled in nursing and graduate schools, gave birth to six children, and held five different nursing positions. She is emphatic that she could not have done it without the loving and limitless help of her husband, her mother, and her mother-in-law.
I was envious when Shany told me that she never worked on Fridays. Her nursing school classes did not fall out on Fridays. She drew the line with her employers about not coming in on erev Shabbat and only occasionally had to put in minimal clinical hours on a Friday.
Shany graduated from Beth Israel Nursing School with an associate degree. Shany gave birth to her oldest son, now eleven, after spending her pregnancy on bed rest in her parents’ home, which was close by in Flatbush. Shany completed her first year of nursing classes before her son was born. Shany gave birth to her second child, a girl, on nursing school graduation day. Her two oldest are 15 months apart.
Shany learned that she would need a bachelor’s degree to get a nursing position in a hospital. She worked as a school nurse while studying online for her bachelor’s degree. After 14 months, Shany had her diploma and a third child, a boy.
Off to Work!
“I immediately called every hospital in Brooklyn. I was hired by Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center and was a day shift staff nurse in the Cardiac Step-Down Unit for six years and worked three 12 hour shifts a week.”
Shany had three children as she began her nursing career. She felt very overwhelmed with a new job, a new home, and three kids under the age of five. “There were lots of tears in the beginning, but I got a good rhythm going and it became part of my life. Never working Fridays and having the unconditional assistance of my family were key.”
After her fourth child was born, a third boy, Shany worked part-time for a year and then continued full-time at Kingsbrook. A clinical resident encouraged Shany to go for an advanced license to become a nurse practitioner, saying that she had the right skillset. While Shany worked full time and attended graduate school for a family nurse practitioner master’s degree, she gave birth to twin boys.
After the twins’ birth, Shany accepted an offer as a surgical night nurse at Maimonides Hospital. Although she was highly regarded by her supervisor and had trained seven nurses, after 18 months, Shany decided to seek a position as a family nurse practitioner. She landed a job as a nurse practitioner at NYU Langone Hospital, working with the Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, Dr. Orrin Davinsky, a leading expert in the field of epilepsy. Shany was thrilled with NYU’s mission of finding a treatment balance that allows children and adults with epilepsy to lead full, high-quality lives.
And Then Covid Hit
Shany’s day-to-day changed dramatically when Coronavirus struck in March 2020, during Shany’s first year at NYU. She was assigned to a COVID step down unit for 12 weeks, working three to four shifts a week. Dedicated to her community, Shany also joined a Shomrim program that provided oxygen concentrators to homebound Covid patients. The goal was to help keep as many people as possible who were stable at home, when the hospitals were filled to capacity.
“For Pesach, I asked my rav, should I park far away [so the neighbors would not see me traveling by car], and he said, ‘No Shany, you are saving lives!” Josef was home for three months to help with the kids. He gave me a big hug as I came indoors and never asked what time I would be home. He knew we were saving neshamot and that’s why I became a nurse.”
I was honored to read an entry from Shany’s journal, describing a day in the life of a Covid patient provider. I do not think that someone who was not on the front-line can truly comprehend what taking care of a Covid patient involved. The stories were both harrowing and hopeful, terrifying and inspiring. What struck me most about Shany’s account was her tenacity. She kept going for 12-hour shifts, waking up at 4:00 a.m., getting to the hospital and then donning scrubs, getting a handoff from the night team, checking on her patients, reviewing labs, changing her PPE, doing rounds with her attending, getting updates from doctors, responding to red flags and codes, conversing with patients’ family members on the phone, and always praying! “The uncertainty was crippling. Never have I answered, “I’m not 100 percent sure how long it will take” or “I hope so,” so much in my career.” Shany’s chief resident explained: “We are in a war. Suit up, use ammunition if you need it, and call me if you need help.”
Shany never got to finish her cup of coffee or eat lunch. Before entering her house, she took a deep breath, asked Hashem for the strength to be positive, and said a quick prayer for her patients. Her kids would come running and ask about her day and she responded, “Better than yesterday.”
Speaking of her children, Shany calls them yummy. “They are so proud of me. They tell their teachers and classmates what I do and come to me when someone needs help. I want our kids to be happy and fulfilled. They don’t have to be doctors or lawyers. I respect their teachers, work with the PTA, and speak at their schools about nursing.”
Shany met her current supervisor, Yehuda Schonfeld, when she was working with Shomrim on the third night of Pesach. Her patient needed an EKG and the medic and nurse practitioner who walked in was Yehuda. He offered her a job after Pesach at Centers Urgent Care. Shany fell in love with the urgent care model.
“It’s like a family. They go above and beyond when it comes to patient care, caring with compassion. It doesn’t feel like work. I’m home a lot more, working a combination of six and twelve hours shifts in their various locations. I also enjoy teaching as an NYU nursing school professor.”
Hobbies and Simple Pleasures
Shany believes in self-care. She enjoys sitting on the couch on Shabbat with her husband and playing with their children.
Please connect with Shany at firstname.lastname@example.org or 917-406-0912
Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach. Her coaching specialties include life, career and dating coaching. Ellen works part-time as an entitlement specialist at Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services. She can be contacted at email@example.com (www.lifecoachellen.com).