Getting less attention in California than the nurse staffing legislation (See story, p. 3) is another measure passed by the state Legislature that also will affect nurse staffing. This law, pushed by organized labor and already signed by the governor, will eliminate 12-hour work shifts.
Jim Lott, executive vice president of the Healthcare Association of Southern California, said the hospital industry prevailed on the governor to grant a one-year exemption for hospitals. The hospital industry hasn't figured out how or if it can implement the change.
Many hospitals employ nurses for three 12-hour shifts per week. Nurses like this arrangement because it gives them more free time to spend with their families or to moonlight, Lott said.
If such a provision goes into effect for hospitals, schedules would have to be rewritten. The law would cost individual hospitals in Southern California $4 million to $7 million per year, Lott said.
There is a wrinkle, he added: Hospitals with union contracts could reinstate the 12-hour shift through collective bargaining.
"The unions say, 'Hospitals, if you want this, unionize your place and you don't have to worry,' " Lott said.