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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Shomer Shabbos Nursing

I'm looking for a few good Orthodox nurses, or physical therapists, or occupational therapists, or health unit coordinators. Anyone who is Orthodox and Shomer(et) Shabbos (Sabbath Observant) and who also works in a hospital setting. To contact me, either below or by email through my profile.

If you've worked in healthcare you know the issue. Caring for the sick is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week prospect. Someone needs to be there all the time, especially in a hospital. For doctors, the well known adage of pikuach nefesh docheh Shabbos, or the saving of a life supersedes the laws of the Sabbath, provides a little cover for those of us who need to take call on Saturdays.

But much of what I'll call "ancillary care," meaning the people who provide all the services, works in shifts. So you would think that it would be fairly easy for nurses and other shift workers to get Shabbos off.

However, that has not necessarily been the case, especially here in the Midwest. There seems to be some rigid thinking amongst those who manage nurses and make schedules. Part of the problem is that Shabbos falls on a weekend (which, if you think about it, makes sense, since Saturday became a "weekend" day in the US because it is the Jewish Sabbath*). Also, Friday night is now part of the "weekend" too. So technically, someone who wants to be Shomer Shabbos needs two out of every three weekend nights to be guaranteed off. Which is where managers have a problem, because this seems to be inherently unfair to the others.

Because, apparently, nobody wants to work weekends, and people need to be forced to do so by virtue of the schedule. And then if you say that someone will always have certain weekend days off, it starts to generate a lot of bad feelings amongst the staff, whether the management is behind it or not. Now, sometimes, you can placate them by reminding them that you will take every Sunday, but that doesn't always work.

And apparently, it has not worked well here in Milwaukee, since I've heard over an over from Shomeret Shabbos nurses about how hard it has been to find a job at a hospital here.

So I'm looking for insight from those of you around the country (or the world, or elsewhere) as to whether you've been able to work it out, and how well it has worked, and what specific tact you would use to introduce such a concept to a hospital administrator.

*pretty sure about this, but if anyone can provide a link it would be appreciated


AidelMaidel said...

NY State *LAW* states that an employer must accomodate you for religious observance. I believe it may also be a federal law. You can not be denied employment based on religious observance.

I would check in with an EOE lawyer in minnesota regarding this matter.

I know a brooklyn DA who also is in the position of someone having to be "on" all weekend (since apparently crime doesn't take a break for the weekend). Since he can never work on Shabbos (or yom tov) he has agreed to work all the major non-jewish holidays for the full extended weekends - Beaster, XMass, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, etc. This helps alot because *NO ONE* wants to work those holidays.

Fern said...

While employers can't discriminate against employees for religious reasons, employers are also not required to hire someone whose religious beliefs make it impossible or extremely difficult for the person to fulfill their job responsibilities.

The recent Muslim taxi-cab fiasco comes to mind. I think we can all agree that if a cab company is making a lot of money driving people home who are too drunk to drive, the cab company should be able to require that its drivers pick up intoxicated passengers. If a cab driver refuses to pick up such passengers because of their religious beliefs, then the cab company should be able to fire/not hire said driver if the cab company choses.

sprouter said...

This might be unhelpful, because maybe I've just given in to the system, but I work as a rape crisis counselor, and we do one-week shifts. I asked for a heter to work on Shabbos/chagim and had no problem getting one - on the basis of pikuach nefesh.

We also choose relief shifts (there is one lead person - thats a week shift, and then there is a relief person everynight, and that's a 24 hr shift) and I try not to take those on Shabbos - because I actually like to observe Shabbat and not always be on-call - but I take the non-Jewish holidays with no squeaking.

Doctor Bean said...

Never fear, the voice of free-market solutions has arrived. I will clarify all.

Sounds like the nurses are asking for a lot more than they're giving, right? If they can't find jobs, then the marketplace is letting them know very clearly that the hospitals really want nurses that can work on Shabbat.

What tact to use with hospital administrator? Well, how about mutually voluntary transactions? A Sabbath observant nurse is clearly worth less to a hospital than one who does not observe the Sabbath. How about making it clear that you are willing to accept a pay cut for the privilege of never working on Shabbat? There must be a price at which that would make you valuable to the hospital. Or, how about offering to pay other nurses to switch shifts with you. You could offer to give a nurse so much money if she worked your Saturday shift in exchange for her Wednesday shift. If there was a marketplace for shifts you would find out exactly how much each Shabbat shift is worth to get rid of.

If you're not willing to face and absorb the economic cost of your religious observance, I can't think of why anyone should hire you.

And on a somewhat related note Happy Independence Day!

Jacob Da Jew said...

Whats a beaster ?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, for jobs with shifts 24/7, sometimes we have to give up other standards in order to keep Shabbat. Everyone's familiar with having to take off for all the Yamim Tovim, using up all the vacation days one might have, if one has vacation days.

Yes, Shabbat is only one day if working days but two night if working night, but what about overnight? It's not possible for everyone, but a graveyard shift of 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. or midnight to 8:00 a.m. reduces the not-available days back down to one. People starting out can take the dreaded graveyard shift to prove themsleves and then move onto days.

Always a good to point out to employers that you'll almost always be available for the goyishe holidays; if Xmas is on a Tuesday, you'd have no problem working Sunday, the Monday that is Xmas eve, and Tuesday -- and basically the whole week until the next Shabbat.

You can offer flexibility by saying that not ONLY can you work EVERY. SINGLE. SUNDAY. but also you can work motzei Shabbat if needed. (The one time I went in on a Saturday at my old job -- it was kind of weird, but it was a December holiday weekend and I came for a half a shift from 8:00 to midnight motzei Shabbat (Xmas eve), and then worked worked 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. the next day (Sunday, Xmas).)

Arrange a shift-swap non-Jewish buddy, preferably someone who attends a long church service on Sundays. Any shift you can't work, your buddy will try to take, and any your buddy can't take, you will try to take.

Have a diplomatic spiel ready to explain to the powers that be about the difference between an Xtian not working Christmas because it is a time to be with family and friends or not being able to work Sunday mornings because of church attendance and a Jew being forbidden to do melachot for 25 hours; not that being with friends and family on Xmas and going to church on Sunday mornings isn't importnat, but that it's more restrictive for Jews. Give examples that don't have to do with a job, like not being able to work on your knitting Friday night, not being able to brew fresh coffee Saturday morning, and not being able to write a letter Saturday afternoon; if you can't do even those things, how much more difficult would it be to work, they'll see.

If a taxicab company is hiring someone specifically to drive drunks, or is based in NYC where it is illegal to refuse a customer, then Fern is right. If a hospital or agency is hiring specifically for weekend coverage, it is the same situation. If, however, there is no "must work Saturdays" or "must work Friday nights" or "must work alternating weekend days" kind of statement in the advertisement, then not accomodating someone who is Shomer Shabbat when that person is willing to make all sorts of other arrangements including working, then Aidel is right.

One niche market: working as for a Shomer Shabbat patient. Obviously this is not desirable if what the patient needs in part is a Sabbath goy, if much of the tasks would be actual nursing tasks involving melachot, but if the job is more like being an aide and the patient is eager to have someone who understands Shabbat observance and the tasks involving melachot are few and could be done by an available non-Jew or with a shinui, being Shomer Shabbat could be a benefit.

ifuncused said...

They cannot NOT hire you based on the simple fact that you are shomer shabbat. I have people in the nursing field (not online, sorry) who go in Saturday night, who do legal holiday shifts, etc. They don't have a problem with Shabbat.
My question is, are they hourly or salary? And if they hourly aren't legal holidays time and a half???

PsychoToddler said...

Seriously, if anyone knows of a hospital where they employ shomer shabbos nurses and staff, please contact me with the name of the administrator so I can contact that person.

JDJ: Beaster is a holiday where we sacrifice colored eggs to killer rabbits.

PsychoToddler said...

Doctor Bean: Believe it or not, I actually agree with you. The person I met with was concerned that hiring Shomer Shabbos people would need to be done in a fair and even-handed way.

I told him, no, absolutely not. It's not a fair situation. We're asking for special treatment. There's no other honest way to describe it.

What I wanted to show him was that he would get an extra value by hiring frummers, whether it's by getting people who are a higher caliber than what he gets now (but who can't work at "better" places because of Shabbos), or because they'll take the undesired Holiday shifts, or by virtue of the frum community they will be more committed to the neighborhood (which is important to the hospital) or whatever. But no, we don't want "fair." We want our needs addressed. We have to make it worth their while.

One of the outcomes of the meeting is that I have to contact other administrators who allow shomer shabbos and see how it works. So I appreciate everyone's input here.

Jack's Shack said...

Good luck with this.

rebelwithacause said...

Beaster is the beast that comes on easter. lol.

Abbi said...

I live in Yerushalayim, where of course, there are many shomer shabbat nurses (there aren't enough non-frum nurses to fill nursing needs here; so it really is a pikuach nefesh situation). My neighbor is one of them. She needs to work on Shabbat at least once a month.

Their solution: An arab driver picks her up on shabbat afternoon or drops her off shabbat morning, depending on whether she worked friday night or needs to start a shift shabbat afternoon. (starting or ending the shift before or after shabbat is also a way of minimizing chillul shabbat)

Also, non-jews do all of the writing. But I think there are special pens you can get from tzmoet institute. or some kind of arrangement can be made that the SS person does no writing.

There are a lot of ways to accommodate SS person's in this situation. You need to consult a SS israeli nurse and an Israeli rav. American ones will be completely unhelpful in this situation because they'll just tell you not be a hospital nurse.

Abbi said...

Aidel: the "x" in Xmas is the greek abbreviation for "christ"; it's no more jewish than writing it the real way: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xmas

Abbi said...


Here's a good link to start with: http://www.medethics.org.il./siteEng/Articles.asp?page_id=28&keyword=%D7%A9%D7%91%D7%AA&EnWord=Shabbat

My main point: there's a lot more flexibility for nurses than you think.

AidelMaidel said...

I would suggest contacting Maimonides Hospital here in Brooklyn. They are a "Jewish" hospital here in the heart of Boro Park and there are countless Shomer Shabbos Nurses who work right along side the non-jews. I don't know if they work on Shabbos or not, but they definitely have a system in place. My first OBGYN was a traditional israeli who would refuse to use the computer on Shabbos. He would tell the non-jewish nurse who would imput into the computer. Obviously, Maimo has a "frum culture" but there are ways of making it work in the US.


I hope that helps.

Ari Kinsberg said...


i think maimonides has a general across the board policy of not forcing people to work on shabbat/hagim, but i could be wrong.


my brother is a PA in downstate. he has no problems (he works sundays).

i think nyc is more accomating in this regard (not that there aren't exceptions).

this is what you get for living out of town :)

Selena said...

I have a couple shomer shabbos friends who are nurses at Cedar Sinai in Los Angeles.

Anonymous said...

The Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale would LOVE to hire some Shomer/et Shabbat nurses. (Yes, it is in New York.)

Mrs. Balabusta said...

Beanie -

How would you like to take a pay cut for your religious beliefs?

Also, it's not like we don't already. Everybody gets vacation time, and Holidays off. Jews have to use vacation time for Holidays.
You tell Others to use their vacation days for Christmas and see where that goes.

So when did that get fair and even?

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Balabusta is right "on the money" with everything she said ! ! !

(And especially since nurses aren't paid well enough, to begin with.)

newnurse said...

Hi! This is not only a "mid west" problem. I am here in NY and am facing the same issue. As soon as I say I cannot work on Friday night (but am willing to kill all my weekends by working each sunday, sat. night) and all the other holidays, I am no longer considered for the position. Usually, I get a letter stating they "chose a different candidate" or just that they cannot find a nurse to switch with me. This is a huge issue and is effecting my Parnasa.

melanie said...

hello. my name is melanie, i am not jewish, but a messianic jewish believer and observer of the shabbat. i am a nurse in austria and i have the same problems. in every hospital they say, that its not possible not to work on friday night and saturday dayshift. the next problem is, if you say, that you would work on every sunday, nobody wants it to, because the other ones also like to work on sunday, because the sunday is better payed then the rest of the week. and for saturday you get the normal loan like for monday.so i dont know what to do...

Anonymous said...

Hey PsychoToddler! I am a CNA at a local nursing home. I am usually off for shabbos. When I first asked my employer about not working on Friday nights, he said it was no problem as long as I was willing to come in on Saturday night. I haven't been scheduled for one until this month. Since I am not shomer yet because I have not finished my conversion, I will work them. However, if you have your schedule in advance, you can always trade shifts. Also, if I worked days, I have a friend who would trade me as long as I worked her Sundays. In addition to this, remind your employer that you are willing to work all secular holidays...and come in during the week prn when you are not scheduled.