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Arrested for doing your job: Fallout from the arrest of a Utah nurse

Advocate for your patients while acting mindfully, cooperating with other public safety organizations and doing the right thing


The recent release of a video showing a nurse being arrested for doing her job has created quite a stir among EMS and other health care providers. The fallout has included police officer suspensions and changes in policy and procedure for both University Hospital and the Salt Lake City Police Department.

While I am perplexed as to how this unfortunate turn of events came to pass, there are a several key points to consider:

1. Doing the right thing

Nurse Alex Wubbels, right, displays video frame grabs of herself being taken into custody. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Nurse Alex Wubbels, right, displays video frame grabs of herself being taken into custody. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Advocacy is defined as the action or process of supporting a cause or proposal. In health care, patient advocacy means working on behalf of patients to afford them rights and protections due to them by ethics or by law.

In this case, where the patient did not appear to have been arrested and is unable to provide consent, drawing blood for a non-medical reason would be unreasonable and unlawful. The nurse, Alex Wubbels, appeared dedicated to ensuring her advocacy in this case aligned with the policies and procedures of the facility.

It appears that she was as shocked and surprised as many viewers were when she was handcuffed and told she was impeding a police investigation.

It's clear that the nurse was doing the right thing. Had she not confronted the officer and advised him of the patient's rights, she and possibly the institution might have been liable for civil damages. Her actions would have also protected the law enforcement officer as well.

2. Ruining relations

One thing's for sure: Most of us in the public safety community are tightly knit with other agencies. Police officers, firefighters, emergency department nurses and EMS providers often keep each other in friendly company both on and off the job.

It’s small wonder – things that the public can never imagine happening, we see on a daily basis. We trust each other to do our jobs, and empathize when things don't go as planned. We've all been there.

While the actions of one individual shouldn't paint an entire department, it certainly can create unnecessary stress for all involved. It's important to frame this encounter in such a way as to minimize distrust amongst such a tight-knit community.

3. Think, then act

It would be worth taking a moment to size up the situation before making an irreversible decision. According to news reports, it seems like the officer's immediate supervisor was involved with the decision to press the issue.

But following the previous train of thought, when someone within the trusted community is trying to express a serious concern about an impending action, considering the counterargument could help prevent a major mistake from happening.

4. Smile, you're on camera

The video serves as a stark reminder that at any time, your actions are being seen and recorded. While such recordings can be taken out of context, they can also be fairly damning in the court of public opinion. Why lose your cool over a procedural issue?

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