Aspen Valley Hospital fires chief nurse |

Aspen Valley Hospital fires chief nurse

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” The head of nursing at Aspen Valley Hospital was fired last month by the hospital’s chief executive officer, although the reasons for the action are not being made public.

According to sources within the hospital community who declined to be identified, CEO David Ressler sent out a memo about a month ago explaining to doctors that the hospital and chief nursing officer Natalie Booker were “going in different directions,” as one source put it.

Responding to questions from a reporter, Ressler wrote in an e-mail, “Because this is a personnel matter, I cannot discuss the reasons for this decision. I will tell you that I appreciated her efforts and accomplishments at AVH. However, I felt that it was in the best interest of the organization, in the long term, for us to pursue a different direction.”

Booker’s tenure with the hospital, which has been about a year and a half, was described by one former employee as a “reign of terror” during which Booker allegedly “fired about 12 people,” the source said.

One case, the firing of former oncology nurse Barbara Stirling in late 2007, generated considerable community outrage directed against the hospital, although not specifically against Booker because her name never appeared in news stories about Stirling’s dismissal.

In numerous letters to the editor and e-mails to a reporter, former cancer patients and other supporters demanded that Stirling be reinstated, which did not happen.

There has been concern over the viewpoint that Booker’s departure could possibly be evidence of staff upheaval at the hospital and heralding a potential shortage of nurses.

AVH spokeswoman Ginny Dyche said Booker’s dismissal is not indicative of a general shakeup of the nursing staff and said that the hospital is not facing a shortage of nurses.

Ressler concurred, stating in his e-mail, “We have not experienced a significant change in our nursing turnover or vacancy rates.”

In general, Ressler continued, “I would like to note that personnel issues are among the most difficult for anyone in a managerial position. Nevertheless, difficult decisions must sometimes be made. At Aspen Valley Hospital, we apply appropriate personnel practices and standards, and decisions are always made with the best interest of the hospital in mind. At the same time, we make every effort to be as fair as possible to affected employees.”

Dyche also said that “Natalie’s position will be filled.”

Booker did not return phone calls requesting comment on the matter.