What is a Shomer Shabbos or Shabbos "friendly" residency?
Dr. Eisenberg's Medical Ethics Homepage
Jewish law proscibes certain forms of creative labor from sundown on Friday until the stars appear on Saturday night (the Jewish Sabbath).  The same restrictions are in force for certain major Jewish holidays (Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, Passover, and Shavuos).  There is no similar prohibition of creative work on other minor Jewish holidays (such as Chanuka and Purim).

While the prohibition of
melacha (creative work) is set aside to save a human life, routine medical work may not be performed on the Sabbath by an observant Jewish healthcare provider,even in a hospital setting.  In cases of true emergency, the observant Jew is required to set aside  Sabbath prohibitions necessary to saveguard life as part of normative Jewish law.

Practically, the requirements of Sabbath observance would usually preclude a medical student, resident, or attending physician from working in a hospital on the Sabbath or major Jewish  holiday if they would be expected to do routine medical work (which would include utilitzing electricity and writing, for instance).  Except for a gravely ill patient or potentially gravely ill patient, the healthcare provider could not use the telephone, turn on lights, write notes, or fulfill many of their routine hospital functions.

Medical students, not being full-fledged physicians yet, are usually able to avoid  Sabbath desecration as the primary responsibility for patient-care does not fall to them.  Once medical training is completed, a physician may choose to take a position that fits his/her needs.  But residents are in a very vulnerable position, having the responsibility of primary patient care, but lacking the autonomy to control their work environment.  As a result, the resident finds him/herself being asked to perform duties as part of training that may conflict with his/her religious beliefs. 

Jewish law does not allow the resident to compromise Sabbath observance for the sake of medical training.  As a result, the potential resident must seek employment in a training program that will accommodate his religious needs.

Such accomodations have been made for decades.  Many programs are proud to be able to accomodate the needs of all residents (see articles from the
Jewish Advocate and Baltimore Jewish Times). Some programs have pre-arranged schedules that are conducive to Sabbath observance.  These programs are known as "Shomer Shabbos" residency programs and some even advertise in newspapers  (see sample advertisement).  Other programs have no such pre-existing system, but are willing to assure a prospective candidate for a residency position that if the candidate matches in their program, they will arrange a schedule that is compatible with the candidate's religious requirements.  Such programs may best be called "Shabbos friendly" programs.  Both types of programs are completely suitable for Sabbath observant residents.

The Sabbath-observant resident who enters one of these programs understands that while he cannot do the same call as the other residents, he will do an equivalent amount of call to his co-workers.  Whether the residency is "Shomer Shabbos" or "Shabbos friendly," it is understood that the resident will work at least as hard as the other residents.  Equivalent call responsibilities are usually arranged by having the Sabbath-observant resident do  additional call on Sundays and national holidays to make up for Friday nights and Saturdays.

Due to the complexity of Jewish law, what qualifies as  a "Shomer Shabbos" or "Shabbos friendly" residency depends on a multitude of factors.  Therefore, it is crucial for residency candidates to clarify with prospective programs exactly what their responsibilities will be to determine if the program offers sufficient accommodation of their religious needs.

Shomer Shabbos Residency Home Page
What is a Shomer Shabbos or Shabbos "friendly" residency?
Is one required to pursue a "Shomer Shabbos" or "Shabbos friendly" residency?
Developing and using a Shomer Shabbos and Shabbos friendly database 
A proposal for inclusion of "shomer Shabbos" residencies in the national match
How to prepare for a residency interview
List of Shomer Shabbos Programs
Submit information on a residency program
Contact Dr. Eisenberg
Contact AOJS
Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists website