Cincinnati VA nurses rally outside hospital
A discussion about scheduling flexibility for nurses at Cincinnati's VA hospital led to the involvement of VA police last month, the nurses' union there says. About a dozen members of the union rallied outside the facility Thursday, protesting the alleged police investigation and advocating for a 36-hour work week.
Cincinnati VA says the nurses showed up unannounced at the director's office May 17. The union says the nurses were accused of being disorderly, but were not. According to union representative Shana Rivera, the charges were dropped. She says those involved were respectful and an investigation wasn't necessary.
"We actually had a really great conversation," she says. "It was so good to the point that I sent a thank-you message the following morning. We were happy that they let us in and that they listened to the nurses. And then to find out they'd filed criminal charges against their nurses?"
Among other concerns, the union wants 36-hour work weeks for nurses to avoid burnout. Rivera, who is a critical care nurse at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center, says she's heard from a number of nurses who are considering leaving due to the long shifts and stress.
"We have to balance our work life as well," she says. "We have our own families to take care of. We work long hours — we work 12-hour shifts."
The VA declined to comment further on involvement of the VA police, legal charges or any internal investigations. In a statement, the VA said it is piloting the so-called "72 for 80" program — which involves a 36-hour work week — in one department starting in July. The VA also pointed to a 15-25% pay raise for nurses in 2022, hiring increases and improving retention rates.
"We fully support our union partners as they are critical members in the delivery of care to veterans in our community," the statement reads. "We greatly value our collaborative working relationship with our union partners, which has been built on trust and a mutual goal of providing safety and high-quality care for Veterans. As a part of our commitment to supporting our union partners, we have worked through and collaborated on many vital needs and benefits concerning vacancy rates, loss rate/attrition, and RN external hires."