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UCLA nurses protest new changes that could force 200 to resign

UCLA nurses picketing, say 200 may be forced to resign
UCLA nurses picketing, say 200 may be forced to resign 01:26

Nurses picketed outside Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Wednesday, protesting new scheduling changes they say could force the resignation of 200 nurses across the university's public health system.

Carrying signs with phrases such as "UC, Respect Your Nurses" and "We Are Not Disposable," dozens of nurses rallied outside the Westwood medical facility over a decision by UCLA management to change the schedules of so-called float pool nurses. For several years, these nurses have been able to schedule four shifts anytime during a given month, but starting May 25, the hospital is requiring them to work at least one shift per week, according to the union National Nurses United. 

"These changes could result in mass resignations, negatively impact patient safety, and create unsafe staffing across UCLA Health," reads a May 24 statement from the union.

Workers from that union as well as the California Nurses Association took part in Wednesday's protests.

Float nurses carry a versatile set of expertise as they work in multiple hospital units and typically cover staffing shortages. According to National Nurses United, they were previously recruited with "the promise of flexibility" — leading to the hiring of "nurses with families, elderly care duties, second jobs, and higher education goals." The union said this led to many more nurses being available to work at the hospital. 

But now, the union says, as many as 200 float nurses may be forced to resign due to the stricter scheduling changes, something they say will jeopardize patient care in addition to costing people their jobs.

However, UCLA Health has not given any indication it will stop — or even reconsider — the new scheduling changes. The public healthcare system released a statement Wednesday responding to the protests.

"UCLA Health strategically recruits, trains and flexibly deploys nurses consistent with our overriding priority of providing safe, high-quality patient care and in compliance with state-mandated staffing ratios," Phil Hampton, spokesman for UCLA Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine, said in a statement. 

"We value the commitment, compassion and skill of our nurses and are confident in the details of our staffing program," Hampton said. 

According to National Nurses United, managers at UCLA told nurses during a May 14 staff meeting they would simply hire replacement workers if 20% of the float pool nurses decided to quit. 

Neil Rudis, a registered nurse and union rep for UCLA's float pool nurses, said the new changes "present a clear threat to nurses and their patients," who will end up bearing the burden of management's "arbitrary, poorly conceived 'solutions' to a problem of their own making," according to a statement from the union.

UCLA released a report on the impact of hiring float pool nurses in June 2023. The in-house team of so-called floaters resulted in a 43% drop in dependence on contracted medical workers, who are usually travel nurses, according to the report.

The report also states it has been more cost-effective to employ a centralized team of float nurses across the public health system as opposed to travel nurses or only those on permanent staff.

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