Toby Bressler

Date of Award


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Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Nursing




Background: With expanding cultural diversity in the United States (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009), it is essential to increase the diversity of the nursing profession to match the patients who are being cared for in our healthcare system (IOM, 2003; Sullivan Commission, 2004). Despite improvements to the demographic composition of the nursing workforce in recent decades, the nursing workforce has remained predominantly homogeneous and to meet the current and future health needs of the public while providing culturally relevant care, the nursing workforce needs to increase its diversity (IOM, 2010). This demographic shift creates a social imperative that requires healthcare agencies to attract and retain nurses from diverse cultural groups. Objective: The purpose of this research was to understand the lived experience of observant Jewish nursing students (OJNS). Lessons learned from this research may be translatable to other racial, ethnic and religious minority groups. This study relied on phenomenological inquiry to illustrate the experience of observant Jewish female nursing students in the Northeastern region of the United States, all of whom self-identified as observant Jews. The criteria of being an observant Jew was observance of the Sabbath and holidays, adherence to the dietary laws of kashrut and observance of the principles of modesty (skirts that cover the knees and shirts or loose fitting blouses that cover the elbows and the neck). Method: This study used descriptive phenomenological research methods. A convenient purposive sampling of junior and senior baccalaureate students in the Northeastern region of the United States and consisted of eight female nursing students who had all self-identified as observant Jews. In depth face-to-face interviews using semi-structured interview questions was conducted and audio recorded. The interviews were transcribed verbatim. NVIVO software was used for data management and analysis. The analytic approach of Husserl (1913/1962) and Fu (2008) descriptive phenomenological methods were employed to synthesize data, in order to focus on the lived experience of all the participants. Results: This study illuminated the lived experience of these OJNS. Seven themes synthesized from the data were: 1) Nursing and Mitzvot (commandment or charitable act) the ultimate chesed (acts of loving kindness); 2) External differences reflecting inner values; 3) Concealing or revealing: obligations responding to cultural curiosity; 4) Cultural immersion and the awareness of the other; 5) Blurred lines: accepted social norms and expected social graces; 6) Supportive nurturance and the teachers’ role; 7) Wanting to make a good impression Kiddush Hashem (sanctifying G-d’s name). Findings from this study illustrate the interaction between students’ motivation to become a nurse experience, academic experience and faith-based and cultural values. Modest dress as an external difference that reflected inner differences and values, appreciation of inner strength and their devotion to personal/academic growth emerged. Conclusion: Understanding the experience of OJNS is important due to increasing nursing workforce diversity, validating cultural awareness and sensitivity and transcultural nursing. These findings may be used to influence educational program development for Orthodox Jewish nursing students and other religious minority groups. Findings from this study might inform curricula design and interventions pertinent to developing greater awareness, sensitivity, and understanding of religious and culturally diverse nursing students in order to maximize the recruitment and retention of diverse ethnic minorities in nursing education.

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