Press Release

Rocky Mountain Regional VA registered nurses demand management address epidemic of workplace violence

Three nurses holding signs calling for safety from workplace violence

Nurses condemn management for chronic short-staffing, failure to create workplace violence prevention plans, and lack of action

Registered nurses at Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Aurora, Colo., are planning to hold a rally on Monday, July 17 to demand that management address the epidemic of violence at the facility and take meaningful steps to provide a safe workplace for health care professionals and a safe place of healing for veterans, announced National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU).  
“Nurses are being assaulted, kicked, spit at, hit, and threatened on a daily basis,” said Ricardo Ortega, a registered nurse and the NNOC/NNU associate director at Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center. “We have nurses who are scared to come to work or leaving our facility because of these worsening issues. We have brought up these issues to management but instead of addressing them, they are coming after those of us who are speaking out to demand a safe workplace.”

“We know if the health care providers are not safe, the patients are not safe,” continued Ortega. “We demand that the VA management address these issues and work with the nurses, the health care professionals, and their respective unions to come up with effective solutions.”

  • What: Rally to demand VA management address epidemic of workplace violence
  • Who: Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center registered nurses
  • When: 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday, July 17, 2023
  • Where: Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center, 1700 North Wheeling
                 Aurora, Colo. (across the street, in front of IHOP)

Nurses are demanding that VA management:

  • work with nurses and other health care professionals to create and implement effective workplace violence prevention plans that are unit specific and include every unit of the hospital and every shift.
  • staff each unit appropriately with nurses and other health care professionals. Nurses know that short-staffing leads to delays in care and this can lead to agitation, anger, and confusion, which can lead to violence. RNs must have sufficient appropriate staff to meet the needs of every patient.
  • respect the nurses’ role as a patient advocate and stop all efforts to retaliate against nurses who speak out about workplace violence and staffing issues. Nurses have been threatened by management for advocating for a safe working environment. RNs ask: How can we recruit and retain nurses when we are being threatened by management and feel unsafe on the job?

Workplace violence has become an epidemic in hospitals nationwide, and unfortunately, our facility is not immune to this issue,” said Sharda Fornnarino, a registered nurse and the NNOC/NNU director at Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center. “The VA administration has failed to provide adequate assistance to nurses to prevent workplace violence. While they have taken some steps over the last several years to address the issue, those steps have been very slow in coming and largely ineffective. Nurses are getting injured every day. We are demanding action because without changes, it will be impossible for us to continue to bring the highest quality of care to our veterans.”

“Violence against nurses and other health care professionals has continued to outpace our policies,” said Jaci Graul, a registered nurse and combat veteran who serves as the NNOC/NNU communications chair at Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center. “We have local policies in place that veterans with a history of disruptive behavior be escorted to medical appointments, but there are no such safety measures for those same patients when they’re admitted into the hospital. Training for our nurses only goes so far when we don’t have adequate staff.”

“More than 80 percent of nurses experience workplace violence each year and the landscape continues to change but our response and efforts to combat workplace violence is not keeping up,” said Graul. “I recently had a patient threaten to shoot me. This is just one example In a list of daily onslaughts. We demand that VA management take these threats seriously.”

NNU strongly supports the passage of the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. This proposed federal legislation would mandate that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) create a federal standard requiring health care and social service employers to develop and implement comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans.

Nurses know that workplace violence prevention plans do work. Repeated studies have shown a dramatic decrease in violence when unit-specific workplace violence prevention plans were put in place.  

NNOC/NNU represents nearly 700 nurses at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center.

National Nurses Organizing Committee is an affiliate of National Nurses United, the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with nearly 225,000 members nationwide. NNU affiliates also include California Nurses Association, DC Nurses Association, Michigan Nurses Association, Minnesota Nurses Association, and New York State Nurses Association.