AVH nurse firing upsets patients
ASPEN Some local cancer patients are upset that Aspen Valley Hospital has fired a popular oncology nurse with no warning and, according to the nurse, without good reason.Barbara Stirling, an oncology nurse who has been at AVH for 11 years and worked in Vail and in Denver before that, was fired on Oct. 4. She said she received no advance indication that she was in trouble.”She’s a really compassionate nurse that everybody loves,” said one of Stirling’s former chemotherapy patients, Chris Cassatt. “It’s like someone firing Mother Teresa.” Cassatt is a nationally syndicated cartoonist whose work appears in The Aspen Times.Stirling on Monday confirmed that her dismissal was over her failure to obtain a doctor’s signature on each document ordering chemotherapy treatment for patients, a policy of which she said she was never informed.”I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong,” said Stirling, 62. She added: “I didn’t have any kind of warning.” Hospital spokeswoman Ginny Dyche said she could not discuss the matter because of employee confidentiality rules.”We are aware that there is community concern about certain individuals. All I can say is, we made the best decision we could, [and] there’s two sides to every story,” she said. Stirling said she always has accepted verbal orders for treatment from doctors, with documentation coming later, especially from specialists whose practices are spread throughout Colorado.Plus, she said, other nurses at AVH do the same thing she was accused of but were not fired – something she said she does not understand, nor does the attorney she is talking to about her case.The doctor with whom she works most closely, oncologist Douglas Rovira of Denver, said he was unaware of the policy and did not know much about Stirling’s dismissal.He said that it is accepted practice “in hospitals all across the country” for a physician to give a nurse a verbal order and follow up later, after the order has been carried out, with a signed document authorizing the treatment in question.Stirling, too, said it is a common practice, explaining that “we all do it.” She said that even local doctors who would be able to put all their patient-care orders into written, signed documents do not always do so.”I love my patients. I’ve taken a lot of pride in the hands-on care I’ve given my patients, and I would never do anything to put them in harm’s way,” she said. Stirling said all her previous evaluations by department heads had been positive, but she was reluctant to say much more about the matter because of a fear of retaliation.”I just don’t want any more repercussions in my life,” she said.Longtime local Maggie DeWolf said that both she and her husband, Nick (who since has died), received treatments from Stirling.”Nick felt that he got such good care from Barbara and that she was very competent at administering chemo,” she wrote in an e-mail, “and I had bladder treatment over the course of several months about five years ago, and Barbara administered that most competently.”Rovira, who comes to Aspen to practice three days out of every month and has worked with Stirling since 1991, called her “my absolutely trusted colleague for 16 years” and said he has never had any reason to question her dedication or professionalism.John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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