University of Utah Hospital nurse Alex Wubbels was arrested on the unit she selflessly worked day and night to manage. Two Salt Lake City police officers forced their way onto Ms. Wubbels nursing burn unit and demanded for her to break the very code she dedicated her life to uphold. As a nurse she puts aside her opinions, motives, and personal life to fights for the rights of the patient’s she provides medical treatment for. The two Salt Lake City police officers who violated the rights of Ms. Wubbels were attempting to force her to break the oath she made the day she passed her nursing boards.
Being a nurse is more than working at a hospital, passing pills, and making people feel better. Nurses attend college to learn the inside and out of the human body, the way medication affects the body, and how the body reacts to disease processes. But as any medical professional will tell you, going to school to become a nurse does not make you a good nurse. There is more to taking care of someone in quite possibly the worst time of their life than just passing pills, starting IV’s and putting on dressing. At some point in the healing process man-made objects lose their effectiveness, especially when the patient begins to lose faith. One of the underlying personality traits of a good nurse is the ability to put another persons well being at a higher priority than their own. As a nurse I have seen good nurses, bad nurses, and have also had the joy and life changing experience of working with great nurses. The one often overlooked factor that can truly affect the healing process is the personality of the individual taking care of them. If the patient at any time feels as though the nurse does not care about them, effectiveness of care diminishes. One way that nurse’s put patients first is their ability to advocate for patients. In the hospital nursing staff are the first line of communication between patients and the conglomerate of staff that assists in providing the best health care possible. Advocating for your patient becomes a priority at this point, because if we didn’t, it could very well end up overlooked. Ms. Wubbels did exactly that.
At the time when the police officers started the altercation with Ms. Wubbels, the patient she was caring for was unconcious. The patient was not a suspect in a crime that had been committed but rather an individual who had been injured in a police chase that ended up involving said individual. The police officers were demanding she take a blood sample, which in clinical practice is not abnormal to be requested in situations when the police are involved. But the story takes a twist due to the patient being unconcious. Nurses follow a national governing body and one of the first lessons in nursing school is the presence of patients rights.
In this scenario the unconcious patient has no ability to refuse the blood draw, thus violating their right. As always there are different areas in which these rights can be trumped when an unconcious patient arrives, but normally it involves life saving measures needing to be implemented. Seeing as the blood draw was not a life saving measure, one would assume Ms. Wubbels realized that she would be violating the rights of the patient she was there to advocate for. As the supervisor on the unit it was her job to make a decision for her staff. She pulled up the policy that had been implemented months earlier by the University of Utah hospital that surmised a blood draw could not be performed on an individual without their consent unless their was a warrant or the individual was a suspect in a crime. Ms. Wubbels made contact with her supervisor who continually referred her back to the policy. This was not the answer the police officer wanted to hear, he continued to demand she follow his orders and collect the blood sample. Ms. Wubbels did every nurse in America proud by not backing down. She would not put the unlawful orders of a police officer above the rights of her patient.
Ms. Wubbels was eventually arrested for her decision and physically assaulted by the Salt Lake City police officer. At this point in time the University of Utah Hospital has created a new policy referencing the allowance of police officers in the direct patient settings. The policy states that officers will no longer be allowed in these areas, allowing for staff to focus on providing the best care possible for their patients.
Currently the Salt Lake City police officers that were involved have been suspended pending the criminal investigation. But one has to ask themselves if this truly is enough? Is it going to take isolated events around the country turning into household news for officers to realize the profile they are creating for themselves? Will police officers begin to hold each other accountable and perpetuate a better police force in general? We can only hope.
But as for you Ms. Wubbels, I applaud you and respect you as an individual AND as a nurse, immensely.