UNAC/UHCP Saves the 12 Hour Shift for California Nurses, Patients and Hospitals

October 2015

UNAC/UHCP declared victory on October 5, 2015 in the fight to save the 12 hour shift, beloved of RNs while also a boon for patients and hospitals.

“My patients need me and the 12 hour shift allows me to spend more continuous time with them, monitoring their care and coordinating with their doctor,” said Gloria Teo, RN, who works at Fountain Valley Medical Center. “It means that the next nurse who comes on duty will spend more time with them as well. It’s very important for the continuity of care. Our patients don’t lose their nurse every eight hours.”

The 12 hour shift is a mainstay in the nursing profession. Traditionally, nurses start and end shifts at 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. This uniform standard allows patient care to continue with minimal disruptions for shift changes. As the health care industry has changed, shorter eight and ten hour shifts have become more common in clinics and even in hospital units. This allows greater flexibility in the industry while leaving the 12 hour shift still the industry standard. To potentially eliminate the 12 hour shift would dramatically change the nursing profession and negatively impact patient care.

“If not for the 12 hour shift, I would not have been able to raise my children and take care of my aging parents,” said Charmaine Morales, RN, formerly at Kaiser Permanente’s South Bay medical center and now Secretary of the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP).

A February 2015 decision by the California Court of Appeal, Gerard v. Orange Coast Medical Center, invalidated a provision of Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Order 5 which governs meal periods for employees in the health care industry. The decision threatened to disrupt long-established, collectively bargained shift schedules for RNs at health care facilities throughout California. Since 1993, Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Order 5 included a provision allowing employees in the health care industry to voluntarily waive a second, off-duty meal period, regardless of the length of the shift. The current version of that provision was adopted by the IWC in June 2000, after public hearings at which testimony was presented by dozens of labor and management representatives from the health care industry. The final language reflected a joint proposal from labor and management representatives. Nurse-hospital Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) in the health care industry since then have been negotiated against the backdrop of the IWC’s wage orders. The Court of Appeal decision threatened to unravel settled shift-scheduling practices that cover thousands of California nurses.

“The 12 hour shift has provided for better work-life balance in a demanding and exhausting profession,” said Helen Bouman, RN, Garden Grove Medical Center in Orange County.

UNAC/UHCP sponsored SB 327, state legislation allowing the longstanding nurse-hospital agreement to stand. The bill passed with overwhelming support in both the California State Assembly and State Senate. Today, after a campaign of letters and emails to Governor Brown from UNAC/UHCP RNs in support of the bill, Governor Brown has signed it into law.

“Nurses are consistently among the most trusted voices by the public,” said Ken Deitz, RN, UNAC/UHCP President. “We thank Governor Brown for listening when nurses spoke up for their patients and their own families in support of the 12 hour shift. This is a win-win-win, good for patients, nurses and California hospitals. It was the right thing to do.”