Sigma charters Israel chapter

By Salam Hadid, Dalit Wilhelm, and Cheryl Zlotnick | 10/16/2019

Omega Lambda Chapter is born.

Sigma charters Israel chapter

The University of Haifa Honor Society of Nursing in Israel becomes Sigma’s Omega Lambda Chapter during chartering ceremony held 25 September 2019. 

The chartering ceremony for Omega Lambda Chapter, affiliated with the Cheryl Spencer Department of Nursing at the University of Haifa in Israel, was held Wednesday, 25 September 2019. On that date, it became the 541st active chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma). The journey that culminated in this memorable occasion was both exhilarating and challenging. In the paragraphs that follow, we share the process of establishing an honor society, the strategies used to overcome obstacles, and the final stages of becoming a Sigma chapter.

The process began in May 2011 when Dorit Pud, PhD, RN, then head of the Cheryl Spencer Department of Nursing, shared with colleagues the university’s interest in becoming more “international.” She asked Cheryl Zlotnick, DrPH, RN, an associate professor in the department and recent immigrant to Israel from the United States, if she had any ideas. One of the first ideas Zlotnick mentioned was to launch a Sigma chapter.

Translation, please
Founding a chapter requires university agreement, so the first step was to determine if the University of Haifa would support establishment of a Sigma chapter. While that may be an easy question to answer in a country with many such associations, an “honor society” is not a well-known entity in Israel. In fact, it is so unfamiliar that there is no real translation for the term, and the university was unsure about the benefits of such an association.

To address any skepticism, Pud convened a meeting with representatives of the rector’s  office (equivalent to provost in the United States), research authority, university legal services, and budgeting department. The main question posed was, “Is there any real advantage to having a Sigma chapter at the university?” It was a long meeting, but when it ended, the officials were convinced of the benefits, so the process of establishing an honor society—and eventually a Sigma chapter—began. There were conditions, of course. The first was to obtain approval of Sigma’s bylaws from the university’s legal services.

In the lawyer’s hands
A back-and-forth commenced. A university lawyer reviewed every word of the bylaws and sent his concerns—for example, inclusion of U.S.-centric terms such as 501(c)(3)—to the nursing department, which, in turn, transmitted those questions to Sigma’s offices. After a myriad of email exchanges, we finally received communication confirming 1) Sigma board approval of all requested changes and 2) university approval of the final bylaws.  

Meanwhile, Anna Zisberg, PhD, RN, who had succeeded Oleg Zaslavsky, PhD, MHA, RN, as president of the honor society, sought to ease the burden of membership dues on faculty members and students. She also chaired meetings to discuss programming and ways to attract members. Indecision took a toll on the board during this phase, and personnel changes took place. By the time the budget was finalized, only three individuals from the original board remained, and two of those had exchanged positions. Dalit Wilhelm, MA, RN, was now president, Zlotnick remained treasurer, and Zisberg was counselor.

Wilhelm rejuvenated the nascent honor society with her strong recruitment efforts. This fostered competition and interest among other institutions, and, for a time, the possibility of founding a single nursing honor society for all Israel was discussed. Recognizing, however, the progress that had already been made in establishing an honor society at the University of Haifa, Efrat Dagan, PhD, RN, who was head of the department at the time, made the decision to continue the process as planned.

Recruiting members proved challenging. Convincing nurse leaders from several institutions in northern Israel of the value of becoming Sigma members required one-on-one conversations. Nurse leaders at other academic institutions, hospitals, and clinics questioned the idea of joining an honor society based at the University of Haifa. To overcome these concerns and reduce resistance of those with strong loyalties to their home institutions, attention was given to creating a sharing atmosphere in which all members would participate equally. With these apprehensions addressed and after additional meetings were held to reintroduce the idea of an honor society, 53 members were inducted on 8 October 2018, with others joining the following month.

Now that we had an honor society, it was time to begin the process of submitting documents and completing the process needed to become a Sigma chapter. With assistance from Head of Department Anat Drach-Zahavy, PhD, RN; Debbie Mishor, assistant to the department head; Tamar Shochat, PhD, head of the Research Center; Galia Golan Sprinzak, PhD, Research Center coordinator; and Dalit Lahav, Simulation Center assistant, we began the step-by-step journey.

Sigma charters Israel chapter

Under construction
For the past two years, we have been a chapter under construction. It was important for us to prove to ourselves and to Sigma that we would be an active and effective chapter with the potential to effect change and contribute to the nursing profession in Israel and around the world. During this phase, activities included several educational sessions, each carefully planned to strategically expand knowledge, expose members to various areas of interest—including interprofessional practice—and incorporate speakers with an international focus. In addition to presenters from Israel, we heard speakers from Norway and the United States.

Another objective was to build skills and knowledge to prepare us for participation in international conferences, specifically the International Nursing Research Congress held this past July in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. With assistance from presenters who guided them in writing abstracts and designing posters, many of our members submitted proposals for presentations and posters at Calgary, and an amazing 85% of them were accepted. Eventually, 15 members attended the conference and made presentations. For many, it was their first time to present at an international conference.

Throughout the process, efforts were made to educate our members on Sigma rules, regulations, values, and resources. It wasn’t always easy. For most of our members, English is a second or third language, so reading and navigating through Sigma’s English-filled website seemed overwhelming at times—but they did it.

Exciting news!
Just as we were making final plans to attend the International Nursing Research Congress in Calgary, we received the exciting news from Jennifer Hoffman, Sigma’s manager of chapter development, that our University of Haifa Honor Society of Nursing would become Sigma’s Omega Lambda Chapter. Preparations began with renewed vigor that day!

On 25 September, chartering of Omega Lambda Chapter took place with induction of 81 new members and transfer of three current Sigma members. Officiating at the ceremony were Sigma President Beth Baldwin Tigges, PhD, RN, PNP, BC, and Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Madigan, PhD, RN, FAAN. Regional Coordinator Marie-Louise Luiking, MANP, RN, who joined the ceremony via Skype, gave us a warm welcome to the European Region. Ceremony attendees also heard from Ron Robin, PhD, president of the University of Haifa, and Anat Drach Zahavy, PhD, head of the university’s Cheryl Spencer Department of Nursing.

It has been a very enlightening and exciting process! RNL

Salam Hadid, PhD, RN, a lecturer at Zefat Academic College in Safed, Israel, is vice president, academic sites, of Omega Lambda Chapter. Dalit Wilhelm, MA, RN, head of the clinical unit in the Cheryl Spencer Department of Nursing, University of Haifa, in Haifa, Israel, is president of Omega Lambda. Cheryl Zlotnick, DrPH, RN, an associate professor in the Cheryl Spencer Department of Nursing, University of Haifa, serves as treasurer of Omega Lambda.

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