1. Khoury, Khalil MScPharm, BSN, RN

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Iam head nurse on a unit known as Internal Medicine A at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem. This is where former prime minister Ariel Sharon was admitted for several days after a minor stroke on December 18, 2005. (He subsequently suffered a major cerebral accident on January 5, 2006, from which he has not recovered.) During his first hospitalization, my staff of Arab and Jewish nurses cared for him in an atmosphere of mutual respect-a sharp contrast to life outside of the hospital walls.


Internal Medicine A is a microcosm of Israel. Of 40 nurses under my supervision-all Israelis-one-third of us are Christian or Muslim Arabs and the rest are Jews. Yet we work together as a harmonious unit, an approach that is the basis for the humane way we treat our patients. I think of my workplace as an island of sanity within the insanity that surrounds us. As an Israeli citizen, I have the same rights as Jewish Israelis, but when security guards at a shopping center or coffee shop see me or hear me speaking Arabic to a companion, they demand to see my identification and search my bag more thoroughly than those of others. My professional accomplishments, my integration into Israeli society, my triumphs over the odds against Arabs in my country-none of this matters.


I was born in Haifa in 1971, and my parents-a construction worker and a housewife-raised me to respect humankind, to accept others and to help them. This led me to nursing, but my career choice was also a practical decision. Because they are perceived as security risks, Israeli Arabs can get jobs in nursing more easily than they can in other fields, such as high tech or the military. I enrolled at the Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Nursing in Jerusalem in 1992; when I graduated in 1996, I immediately went to work as an RN on Internal Medicine A. I was named head nurse in 2001.


When the prime minister was assigned to our department, there was considerable media excitement. "The team that treats prime minister Sharon includes Arabs," commentators proclaimed. Given the political situation in Israel, the presence of Arabs on the treatment team was considered exceptional. Yet inside the hospital, we performed our duties exactly as we would for any patient. The only substantive difference was the necessity of accommodating the prime minister's security staff in an adjoining patient room with a connecting door and the political staff in one of our two doctors' lounges. We cared for the prime minister and prepared and administered his medications, including injections, all without interference from the bodyguards who were at the bedside around the clock.


I learned about my own prejudices from the experience of being one of Sharon's nurses. Before meeting him during his first hospitalization in 2005, I would have described him as tough, formal, distant, and not very nice, based on his public image. But he turned out to be pleasant and polite in conversation; without his bodyguards and political retinue, he would have been considered simply a nice old man.


I don't see Sharon as my enemy, although Israel does not always see Arabs as friends. Fighting stereotypes is what I do almost every day, whether it is prejudice aimed at me as a man in a traditionally woman's profession or as an Arab living and working in Israel. I am helped in this by the principles of nursing, which emphasize patience and tolerance toward others, without regard to race, religion, sex, or nationality. This is how I was raised, and working at Hadassah has strengthened my commitment to these values.

FIGURE. Khoury and S... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE. Khoury and Sharon