I am graduating from nursing school December 17th 2010. I have received a job offer from The Methodist Hospital in the Houston, Texas Medical Center. I will be working as an RN on the cardiovascular intensive care unit. I have run into a dilemma though. It is The Methodist Hospital Policy (and most) to work weekend days Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The rule is four weekend days out of the month in this form: 1 Friday, 2 Saturdays, 1 Sunday. I asked the manager of the unit during my interview if they allow people to work just Sundays and she told me no. I have a friend that works for the same hospital and has been turned down from jobs because she will not work Shabbat and Chagim. She wrote the hospital saying it was discriminatory to not hire based on religious practices and of course they told her that was not the reason for not hiring her.
I would like to know if the halacha that allows doctors to work on Shabbat and Chagim may also apply to nurses as well? I'm very worried about this and have worked very hard to get this job. I have spent a lot of time and money studying to be a nurse and there is no chance of relocation. Especially because I am Texas I cannot get around the system. There are not enough Jews to make it a concern. Please let me know if you have any advice and insight on this matter.
Thank you for your time.
We sympathize with your circumstances. The great halachic decisor of the previous generation, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt"l wrote about non-Shomer Shabbos residencies that a person should take the residency that will afford him the best training, even if less conducive to a Shabbos environment. However, he stipulated that this is only if he can avoid violating Shabbos with work unnecessary for the patient's real medical care. (See Practical Medical Halacha, Rabbi M.D. Tendler & Dr. Fred Rosner, Raphael Society of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, p. 150, 1980&1998 and .)
You need to check whether the nurses responsibilities include work not directly related to the patients' medical care, such as signing in/out, filling out standard forms (e.g., insurance), cleaning the unit, etc. It seems that it is unrealistic to be able to serve on Shabbos without having to do any such work.
Furthermore, while in a cardiac intensive care unit all the patients would be defined as life-threatened, in that hospital almost all will be non-Jewish. When a doctor or nurse is already found in this situation, great contemporary halachic authorities have ruled not to differentiate nowadays between treating Jews and non-Jews. (See Igros Moshe O.C. vol. IV #79 and Nishmat Avraham 330:8 end of (1)). However, in regards to accepting such a position, see Lev Avraham 13:147 citing Rabbi S.Z. Aurbach zt"l and Rabbis Y.S. Elyashiv and Y.Y. Neuwirth shlita.
We understand that you have invested much time, money and effort in earning your degree. However, this does not allow putting yourself in a circumstance that will cause you to desecrate Shabbos in a prohibited manner. I am sure that there are smaller, albeit less prestigious, hospitals and clinics that would be happy to have you cover the Sunday slot on a regular basis. This will allow you to heal and help lives while preserving the precious sanctity of Shabbos.
With best wishes,